Where you live: Houston, TX
After my mother died, I started to reflect on the moments in which she filled my life with happiness. My mother worked many long hours during the week; but, once in a while, she would come home early. On those occasions, when I got out of the school bus and entered my house I would see her purse in the hallway. My whole self would be filled with the most extraordinary sense of joy. The purse was the trigger for my emotions.
Media you work in: Clay
But, thinking back on my mother and my childhood, I realized that purses are more than a trigger. Growing up in a small immigrant community gave me a strong sense of belonging. When you are part of such a community you have the time and proximity to observe and verify the narratives of the community’s members. When observed in detail, women’s narratives are often reflected in the purses that they carry. The purse becomes a voice that communicates insight into its owner.
Since I moved to United States, my journey has been marked by the search for communities to belong to.
Initially, my purse series concentrated on memories of my mother, her friends and everyday life in the tropics. The voices of their purses remind me of the sense of belonging in my immigrant community. As the series progresses, I have started to introduce voices from other communities that I have belonged to in my own immigrant journey. They reflect a sense of adjustment to a new country.
The purses are recordings of our individual and collective voices.
After a career in the computer industry, Lilly Lerner Reilley became a clay artist. She has studied ceramics at the Glassell School, the teaching institute of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, since 2004 and continues to maintain a connection with the school.
The body of Lilly’s clay work focuses on the depictions of the elements of daily living that are part of the human journey. Her current work, “The Purses", is based on her experiences as a daughter of first generation immigrants in Colombia. Her purses are representations of women’s individual and collective voices in the community.
Her earlier works represent the journey of motherhood. The clay figures in “The Egg Collection” and the “World’s Collection” focused on different stages of mothers’ inner feelings as they enjoy their children and struggle to bring them up to become independent thinkers.