Mattie Oline: Thoughts of a Grandmother (Exhibition Pieces) (Scroll horizontally to view images and vertically to read text; click on players for audio [virtual voice].)

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This project is a tribute to Tom R. Chambers' grandmother, Mattie Oline (Battles) Meekins, 1899-1997. She kept a diary from 1948 through part of 1993. Chambers researched her entries over the years, and chose the ones that have significance for him and society. His grandmother rarely missed making a daily entry in her diary during 45-plus years - an astonishing 16,000-plus entries. Chambers was born in July of 1947, so her diaries were ongoing from when he was about six-months old through the age of 45. The entries are practical, heartfelt and country-bred.

In the early 1900s, she moved with her family to Texas in a covered wagon. Later, she got married to Bill (Willie) Meekins, and raised a family of five in Hynds City. This country village is on Farm Road 103 eight miles north of Nocona in Montague County. It was developed in 1925, when oil production began in the area, and it served local oil production workers. There were a church and three businesses there during the "boom". The Meekins (Chambers' grandparents) owned one of the businesses - a store and gasoline station. After Mrs. Meekins' husband passed away in 1964, she moved her home to Nocona, and lived there until she passed away in 1997.

There are three basic reasons for making entries in a diary: the first is to record what has transpired; the second is to make notes on future activities/events; and the third is for the entries to be kept with other diary entries to become a personal history. Chambers considers his grandmother's collection of 46 diaries a personal history including family and friends with occasional comments/reactions to societal events.

Chambers' grandmother's handwriting is used to provide an immediacy - connection - with Mattie Oline. Notes are used to add more information. He hopes that his grandmother would understand why he has chosen to go public with some of her diary entries: to pay tribute to an individual who helped raise him; and to indicate his sense of longing for her presence. As a former educator, he also sees merit in using family diaries as educational tools.

Go to the initial 216 entries selected from over 16, 000 entries; go to the Facebook version; the exhibition pieces are 11"x14"; the audio is virtual voice.


Frontispiece (Click on image for display version.)

Slide Show (Click on player; allow for downloading time.). The background music is "Doxology" by Christopher French. One of Mrs. Meekins' daughters, Patsy (deceased) was an accomplished pianist, and played hymnals on the family piano for her when she visited.

News article from The Nocona News (December 4, 2014); click on image for larger version.
This project has a partnership link on the Texas State Historical Association website:

(Digital Publications)

Information about the project as it relates to its physical exhibition:

"Mattie Oline: Thoughts of a Grandmother" conjures up emotions in a collective sense that touches all families - all grandmothers. It can be treated as textual art evidenced by the actual entries made by Chambers' grandmother. Her script through the years morphs/evolves, and it draws the viewer in because of its personal nature and sense of immediacy - setting up an intimate connection with this woman who once put pen to paper.

In another artistic/aesthetic sense, the project's physicality and surround configuration within the gallery space is similar to another Chambers project:

Mother's 45s

His grandmother's actual diaries are encased within a glass urn/vase as the centerpiece. There is an auditory component of either piano music his grandmother used to listen to, or some of her diary entries vocalized. The project becomes mixed media via the prints on the wall, her actual diaries encased in the glass urn/vase (3D) as the centerpiece, and the audio permeating the gallery space.

When the viewer steps into the installation, he/she immediately steps inside Chambers' grandmother's mind via the diary entries. There's also a sense of "time travel" as the entries move the viewer through 45 years of existence, 1948 - 1993. And as the viewer looks at/reads the diary entries (prints on the wall), he/she will more than likely glance at the actual diaries (located in the center of the space) repeatedly, back and forth from the prints to the actual diaries back to the prints. This stimulation of the viewer sets up a meaningful connection between the two - prints and actual diaries.