The Nightingale’s Suitcase is a short illustration project of mine from my art foundation year, which provides an unconventional portrait of my grandmother, Agnes Bernelle, and her life, in the form of a pop-up theater within a suitcase.
I see the Nightingale as a metaphor for my grandmother- an exotic, migratory creature, with a powerful singing voice and spirit. As a performer, Agnes lived out of her suitcase, traveling to and from shows, lugging alongside all her theatrical make-up and costumes. On stage, she adopted a dramatic silhouette with the use of a cigarette holder, and her trademark feather boa draped around her neck. The suitcase is also a symbol of her journey from her privileged upbringing in 1920’s-1930’s Berlin, to the blitzed streets of London, and surreptitious life as a secret-agent, codename ‘Vicki’, at only 15. She performed well into her 70’s, collaborating with the likes of Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Mark Almond and The Radiators.