An illuminating debut memoir by a renowned conservator of art and architecture, DWELL TIME is an epic account of family, art, and the deterioration and restoration of both.
“A masterful revelation about life and art imitating each other in maintenance and repair.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“DWELL TIME is as intellectually engaging as it is profoundly moving.” —Dana Spiotta, author of Wayward, a New York Times Critics’ Top Book of the Year
“DWELL TIME is the story of a family, a mother-daughter relationship, but forged of what seems like new building materials entirely. An artist has many duties, among them to conserve the traditions and innovations of the past but also to ‘make it new.’ This memoir does just that, and delivers on its final promise, that of repair.” —Gary Shteyngart, the New York Times bestselling author of the memoir Little Failure and novels that include Super Sad True Love Story, Absurdistan, and Our Country Friends
“It’s no exaggeration to call this book a work of genius. Weaving together her vast knowledge as an art conservator with the haunting intergenerational trauma of her Cuban Jewish family, Rosa Lowinger reveals how even when our world feels broken, repair is still possible. A stunning achievement!” —Ruth Behar, author of Letters from Cuba
In her moving and compulsively readable new memoir, DWELL TIME: A Memoir of Art, Exile, and Repair (Row House Publishing; October 10, 2023), Rosa Lowinger – a leading sculpture and architectural conservator, one of the few prominent Latinas in her field, as well as author of the award-winning Tropicana Nights: The Life and Times of the Legendary Cuban Nightclub – interweaves the materials and science of her work with the story of her Jewish Cuban family and their state of double exile: from Eastern Europe in the 1920s and then Cuba in early 1961. Inspired by and structured similarly to Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table, DWELL TIME is organized by chapters based on the materials Rosa handles in her private practice– Marble, Limestone, Bronze, Ceramics, Concrete, Silver, Wood, Mosaic, Paint, Aluminum, Terrazzo, Steel, Glass and Plastics. Lowinger offers insider accounts of conservation that form the backbone of a personal story about love and sacrifice that often centers on her efforts to deal with a charismatic and mercurial mother.
In this first memoir by a working art conservator, Lowinger not only offers insights into her unique line of work, but also beautifully juxtaposes repair of the material with repair of the personal. Her stories include memories of her trips back to her native Cuba, the country where she was born and which shaped her world view.
“How, I wondered, was it possible that no one in my family had ever told me that Havana, the place where we were from, was so closely aligned to my work?” Lowinger asks. “More importantly, how had I managed to reencounter this ornately decorated, sagging city at the precise moment when I was beginning to see a link between restoration of the material world and personal healing? The answer to these questions forms the basis for my memoir.”
Dwell Time is a term that measures the amount of time something takes to happen—immigrants waiting at a border, human eyes on a website, the minutes people wait in an airport, and, in art conservation, the time it takes for a chemical to react with a material. The term is at the nexus between Lowinger’s art-and-science based vocation and her personal journey as an immigrant, employer, wife, mother, and the daughter of parents whose difficult personalities were shaped by the abrupt loss of their country and way of life.
Rosa Lowinger has written a captivating memoir that vividly demonstrates the power of family, art and repair.
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