by Karel MacKay
The Albert Church Brown Memorial Library, in China Village, welcomed its first artist of 2024, Maria King, on Saturday, February 3. Maria had more than 50 shadow boxes on display at the library through February 29. Incredibly, Maria began her artistic journey less than a year ago and has made over 70 shadow boxes so far.
Historically, shadow boxes were presented to members of the military upon retirement as a “medium to house honorable badge, pins, flags, and other rewards for their service to the country. Veterans would be given a shadow box to commemorate their final rank and sacrifice, a totem to be taken home with them to be showcased and protected.”
The practice actually goes back to the early years when sailors manned wooden ships. At that time people believed that when a sailor departed his ship for the last time, it was bad luck for their shadow to hit land before they did. To ward off this superstitious belief, sailors placed keepsakes that they had earned and collected in a shadow box of fine wood, which represented the “shadows” of the sailors. The boxes were kept on the ship until the sailors were safely ashore. They were then given to the sailors in a ceremony.
Maria’s shadow boxes are a trip through time. Many of them have a religious theme, while some depicted her life experiences. Others pay homage to literary and artistic works. The intricate work in her designs are fascinating, but even more enjoyable than looking at her creations was listening to her describe the story of each shadow box. It was a trip through history, told with incredible art and literary knowledge – not to mention her rapier-sharp wit.
Maria is originally from Poland and currently lives in Liberty. Before she came to the United States, she was a freelance translator and proofreader who worked with various artists and film directors. She writes screenplays and even now works on translating novels – from Illuminations by Mary Sharatt – to several novels by John Banville, all of this with elaborate annotations, which are the most fun for Maria because they require a lot of research and connecting dots. She says that her background has contributed greatly to her passion for creating shadow boxes.
The Library will host local artists throughout the year. Ann Rhinehardt, of Vassalboro, is the next featured artist for the month of March. If you are interested in showing your work at the library, please email email@example.com.
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