When the Brooklyn Museum invited four artists into their period rooms for Playing House, who knew that one would be channeling her own family history, complete with her ancestors’ dramatic flight to America over 380 years ago and a tribute to the first girl in her family born in New Amsterdam?
Mary Lucier created a compelling multipart installation above, around, and inside the Jan Martense Schenck House (1675), which stood in Brooklyn for about 275 years and is currently the oldest “home” in the gallery. Lucier evokes the 1572 persecution of the Huguenots in Europe through a clip from D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance overhead, and invites visitors to sit in a modern replica of an old Dutch chair to watch a slide presentation about the Rapaljie family – a story that also happens to be her own.
The chronology takes you graphically from the religious wars in Europe to a 19-year old couple who escaped, to their colonization of Albany in 1624, and to the 1625 birth of their daughter Sara at their homestead in Wallabout Bay (now the Brooklyn Navy Yard). Lucier’s video installation inside the older Schenck house evokes New Amsterdam; her transformation of his grandson Nicholas’s house (right next door in the gallery) depicts the faces and stories of Sarah’s over one million current descendants 380 years later.