“Lost & Found” recounts the apocryphal story of Anna Isaak, a Russian immigrant who worked in the defense industry during World War II, as did many other women at the time. Anna’s job at the Cabot Mill (the former name of the building where the gallery is now located) gave her access to the space, tools, equipment, and surplus materials to clandestinely pursue a passion of her own—to build her own dirt-track race car from scratch, in an abandoned portion of the mill.
At the close of the war the factory closed, and in a single day Anna found herself unemployed and barred from the building, including the small shop she had set up for herself and which she would never see again. While there is no trace of what became of her at that point, her unfinished car remained where she had left it and was soon forgotten.
Based on rumors of Anna’s project, as well as evidence that he was able to produce, artist Randy Regier was able to determine the location of the car and the hidden room where it seems to have been left behind over 60 years ago.
This work was the construction of a historically fictive narrative, but using objects primarily over text. The story is of Anna Isaak, a notional character, a young Russian-born immigrant to the United States in the mid 1930s. She is of German and Russian-Mennonite heritage, and settles in a shared community in central Kansas. At the outbreak of WWII she breaks with her culturally rigid tradition, both in terms of ‘appropriate’ gender roles and religious heritage, and moves to Portland, Maine to be a welder on the so-called Liberty Ships. She evidences a love for racing cars, and after the war she begins secretive construction of a dirt-track style racing car, ostensibly to return to Kansas as a liberated woman, and individual with her own identity and agency – as a racing car driver. For reasons unknown, only surmised, her car project is hidden and abandoned sometime in the late 1940s, and she returned to Kansas, apparently never speaking of it again. Anna Isaak died single, without heirs or family in 2001, and the only public witness left to her private dream was the lone suitcase of artifacts. The artifacts are traced back to Portland, Maine, and eventually to her hidden chamber and car project.
This work has shown at Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) in Portland, Maine, and the Coleman-Burke Gallery in Brunswick, Maine, respectively.