Family White Elephants

July 30, 2023

Film Website:

Artist/director Mary Jo Bole’s documentary Family White Elephants explores the two sides of her family tree, a trove of inherited possessions, and a pre-occupation with death, all of which have informed her artistic practice. Bole takes a historian’s interest in her family’s storied genealogy, which includes industrial titans like Carnegie and Rockefeller on one side and Eastern European immigrants on the other.   She pieces together their stories through a collection of inherited photographs, newspaper articles, and other ephemera as well as interviews with her mother, Ruth, recorded before her passing.  Preserved and handed down by a lineage of women, Bole’s eccentric family archive documents the Industrial Revolution and offers a familial front row seat to the Gilded Age of Cleveland and its demise. As she reconciles the weight of these excessive family possessions, Bole offers a parallel history of her own artistic practice, which has been influenced by this archive and her upbringing in post-industrial Cleveland. 

Columbus Alive article: