In December 2016, Traces worked with the National Trust at Fenton House to explore the tales of the Gee family, prominent silk and linen merchants, Quakers, and owners of iron mine Principio in Pennsylvania, who once lived at Fenton House. The story picks up following unexpected family tragedies that create an atmospheric, other-worldly experience far from the London we know today. We added to the house’s existing treasure trove of collections with the work of 80 contemporary artists and designers telling the story of the Gee family for a unique three-week installation.
There is never a right time to dissect the life of a person and certainly not of a family. Whilst history sees straight lines and fact real life is much more complicated. We are all by nature caught between the world we want to live in and who we want to be and what we end up being and where we end up living. The time is 1730 and the Gee family are economically and socially in the ascendancy. But two deaths (daughter Ann and wife Anna) in the past 24 months have brought realisation to some that there world is not what it seems. History tells us from here on the Gee family began a steady decline. Is there a lesson that we can learn? Probably. Will we learn that lesson? Probably not.
The story concentrates on the time shortly after the wifes death, months before the husband (Joshua Senior) dies of a fever on the nerves. The family is in turmoil at this stage. The eldest son Joshua Jnr, is basically disinherited, daughter Elizabeth is suffering from what we may now call bi-polar, sons Samuel and Osgood are involved in trade and business but its not going so well, and daughter Rebecca is a spinster who concentrates a lot of her time on politics, society and her families welfare.
All photos © Traces/Giovanna Del Sarto, 2016