When Amy Sanford, Milton Class of ’90, had the opportunity to return to her native Cambodia after 30 years of living in the United States, English faculty member Bill Moore jumped at the chance to accompany her to meet with her recently-discovered relatives who had survived Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge take-over and the Pol Pot era. In an upcoming exhibit at Boston’s Laconia Gallery, both Amy and Bill showcase their work which explores each artist’s personal connection to Cambodia’s past and present.
Amy left Phnom Penh in July, 1974 with her adopting American mother, Barbara Sanford, leaving behind her father, Ly Kim Long. Amy grew up in East Milton in the home of her mother and grandparents and subsequently attended Milton Academy where her academic advisor, from Class III on, was the late Nina Seidenman, Bill’s wife. Amy’s father was fortunate to have contact with the American family who adopted Amy, and he sent weekly letters as he tried to escape the country and the ensuing violence. After April 17, 1975, the letters stopped coming.
In the Laconia exhibit, “Suspended,” Amy seeks to reconnect with her father through individual written letters that combine to form a large-scale gallery installation. The work is comprised of over 50 handcrafted letters written on copper foil. Each printed message is meticulously hand-stamped to frame questions from the present, to understand the past. The messages are wrapped and protected in copper wire nests suspended in mid-air throughout the gallery. The sea of floating nests invites viewers to walk through, interact with, and read each message.
The installation is accompanied in an adjacent gallery space by a series of photographs of Cambodia taken by Bill Moore. Bill’s photographs document Amy’s reconnection with her past and reveal the vibrant spirit of the Khmer people and present day Cambodian culture.
The Laconia Gallery’s two-part exhibition of photographs and mixed media installation debuts with an Opening Reception on Friday, May 5, 5:30-8:00 PM. For more information, please visit www.laconiagallery.org.