Dwell Time: A Memoir of Art, Exile, and Repair with Rosa Lowinger
Dwell Time is an illuminating debut memoir by one of the few prominent Latinas in the field of art and architectural conservation; a moving portrait of a Cuban Jewish family’s intergenerational trauma; and a story about repair and healing that will forever change how you see the objects and places we cherish and how we manage damage and loss.
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.
Rosa Lowinger is a Cuban-born American writer and art conservator. The author of Tropicana Nights: The Life and Times of the Legendary Cuban Nightclub (Harcourt, 2005) and Promising Paradise: Cuban Allure American Seduction (Wolfsonian Museum, 2016), she is the founder and current vice-president of RLA Conservation, LLC, one of the U.S.’s largest woman-owned art and architectural conservation firms. A Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation, the Association for Preservation Technology, and the American Academy in Rome, Rosa writes regularly for popular and academic media about conservation, historic preservation, the visual arts, and Cuba.