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Reliquary for a Birthday Cake
Reliquary for a Birthday Cake
Acrylic paint and papier-mâché on basswood with 35mm slides
9.5” x 10” x 4.5”

In 1976 or so, my mother made a house-shaped birthday cake for me. She constructed it from two rectangular sheet cakes, which she positioned vertically. She cut a sloping roof and formed a chimney with red birthday candles. She decorated it was a base of white icing; she defined the house details in brown and yellow frosting and drew flowers in green and pink. In this piece, I tried to capture the distinct form from memory, while enshrining the nostalgia of birthday celebrations. Through the windows - and across a dining room table with a traditional birthday cake on it - the viewer can see family snapshots suspended in 35mm slides, images from a family birthday before I was born. Embedded beneath the papier-mâché layers on the reverse, the words “Appreciating Hand Work” appear. Written in decorative lettering with embroidery thread, evoking both cake decorating and needlework, this phrase epitomizes the life-long struggle of mother and daughter to understand each other’s work.