Dwell Time: A Memoir of Art, Exile, and Repair by Rosa Lowinger
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.
Renowned art conservator Rosa Lowinger spent a difficult childhood in Miami among people whose losses in the Cuban revolution, and earlier by the decimation of family in the Holocaust, clouded all family life.
After moving away to escape the “cloying exile’s nostalgia,” Lowinger discovered the unique field of art conservation, which led her to work in Tel Aviv, Philadelphia, Rome, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Charleston, Marfa, South Dakota, and Port-Au-Prince. Eventually returning to Havana for work, Lowinger suddenly finds herself embarking on a remarkable journey of family repair that begins, as it does in conservation, with an understanding of the origins of damage.
Inspired by and structured similarly to Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table, this first memoir by a working art conservator is organized by chapters based on the materials Lowinger handles in her thriving 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 her immigrant family’s story of healing that beautifully juxtaposes repair of the material with repair of the personal. Through Lowinger’s relentless clear-eyed efforts to be the best practitioner possible while squarely facing her fraught personal and work relationships, she comes to terms with her identity as Cuban and Jewish, American and Latinx.
Dwell Time is an immigrant’s story seen through an entirely new lens, that which connects the material to the personal and helps us see what is possible when one opens one’s heart to another person’s wounds.
From the book: “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? 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?”
Year first published: 2023