Projects 2002: Alison Pebworth


10 Year Itch

Are You A Contender?
An American Legacy

Kingston, NY, 1702
Jost A. Molenaer, a Dutch immigrant, signs his name to a mysterious pendant reputed to enhance foresight and unlock hidden potential, thus marking the beginning of a legacy that still persists today.

New York, Virginia, Ohio, 1702-1802
The pendant changes hands four times through means devised by each successor to impartially determine an heir. It is believed that over time objects absorb the collective will of its environment and therefore possess a greater will, which should be allowed to freely be determined. Unlike legacies that follow pre-determined courses such as fraternal or patriarchal lineage, (which can stifle potential), this legacy follows the ever-changing and symbiotic relationship between person, place, and object.

Lead City, North Dakota, 1902
James R. Sharp, recipient of the pendant in 1881, upholds the tradition on its 200th year by staging a contest at his son's elementary school. Sarah Fuller, a bright 4th grader, wins the mental arithmetic competition and gleefully accepts the responsibility of the legacy.


Huntsville, Texas, 1964
A seventy year old Sarah Fuller, now Mrs. Ray McDaniels, decides it is time to pass on the pendant she has carried for most of her life. She determines the heirship will be offered to the last child she will help deliver before she retires from twenty-five years as a maternity nurse at Huntsville Memorial Hospital.

On the evening of February 19th, the parents of Mark Thorn are offered the pendant on behalf of their son's chance arrival. The Thorns, full-blooded American Indians, reluctantly accept the blue-eyed pendant, then later return the honor, citing their own legacies to uphold. By default, the ribbon is then offered to Alison Pebworth, the next-to-the-last child born on Mrs. McDaniel's retirement day. The parents, both avid genealogists and descendents of American pioneers, accept the honor for their one-month-old daughter with remarkably little trepidation.




San Francisco, California, 2002

Alison Pebworth, now a rather obscure yet persistent artist, is invited to do a show at 667 Shotwell. Fully aware that this is the year when she must find the next heir for what is now a 300 year tradition, she seizes the opportunity to stage her own contest of impartiality by accepting the offer.

Early April, 2002

Invitations are sent out soliciting the curious and adventurous to come vie for the opportunity to carry a real, living, honest-to-goodness legacy.


667 Shotwell, San Francisco, CA,
April 27, 2002

The contenders arrive promptly at 7pm and are lead into the kitchen where a Clarifying Elixir is served and the purpose of their gathering explained. They are told that a series of clues are set up around the house that will lead them on a journey. The first to make it through the complete course will be awarded the pendant, the legacy of which will be theirs to accept or decline. They are also told that they should not consider themselves in competition with each other but with the hands of fate, as it is just as likely that the object will find them as they are to find the object. Fresh, pure water and plenty of Clarifying Elixir is available whenever refreshment is needed.


Contenders are then led down the hall and the first clue is revealed.

The crowd disperses around the house, scanning every surface of the Shotwell residence in search of the first clue. Before long, those with the keenest eyes are gathering clues and moving through the course, while others still search for the second clue. The dispersal of the crowd throughout the house makes it unclear who is first or last and everyone settles into their own pace.

Then, quite unexpectedly, the object does exert its will and equalizes all of the contenders. The final lock in the contest mysteriously refuses to work! A line forms as each contender eventually makes it to the final challenge, and one by one people try their hand at the combination lock.


The contrary lock opens twice, but when the two contenders who opened it are asked to retrace all of their steps, each misses a clue.

Finally, to alleviate mounting frustration, Alison places a number between 1 and 100 in her pocket. It is announced that, starting with the person who picks the closest number to hers, the first one who can reveal all of the clues in their proper order will be deemed the winner.

Christen Dehate chooses the closest number, then carefully retraces each step with perfect accuracy. And despite her slow start she is awarded the pendant, or perhaps more accurately, the pendant finds its heir.


August, 2002

Four months later, after plenty of time to reconsider, Christen accepts the responsibility of ownership and signs her name to the historical pendant. Alison is able to say in full confidence that the pendant has found its rightful home and the legacy will continue on as it wills.


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