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The Mixed Media Portfolio
The Mixed Media work has been a bit neglected in this blog, so I thought I'd write a post about a couple of the paintings in it. The following is an elaboration on my Artist's Statement as it applies to one or two paintings.
The Wedding Portrait
The mixed media pieces are about the ephemerality of life; the nebulousness of memory and of dreams. Their starting point is always the figure or, in the case of the paintings I am going to discuss here, a number of figures. To begin with, I gather, or invent, evidence of a life: drawings, photographs, letters, snippets from newspapers, lists from the phone book, maps, etc. The process of making the artwork is a process of losing, reclaiming and, again, losing the evidence and, in so doing, a fleetingness occurs and, perhaps, new meanings too. I try to hold on to details as you would on waking from a dream that is dissolving even as you try to grasp it and hold on to it. Yet even as the meaning of the dream recedes beyond reach, it leaves a residue: the ghost of a feeling; a mood; an atmosphere. The Wedding Portrait above (+ detail below) is an imagined painting of my grandmother—I never knew my grandparents or saw their wedding photographs, so they are mysterious to me. The figures in the background are based on an old family photograph, a copy of which is also embedded in the painting. This photograph includes an aunt and uncle who both died young and so also are out of my ken. Also included are many more recent photographs and other objects, materials etc, in the fabric of the painting that hint at the posterity that will result from this wedding day.
The Wedding Portrait - detailBesides the bride, the only figure who is clearly defined, there are other painted figures: wedding guests, aunts and uncles, perhaps the groom. All of these are shadowy—their features are lost in the mists of time as those on the periphery of our lives tend to be. The flowers were taken from a magazine of flower arrangements for Valentine's Day, but they are faded and have a funeral aspect to them; they are both her wedding bouquet and her memorial bouquet as the painting is a wedding and a memorial portrait.
This same experience of trying to grasp onto receding memories often also applies to those who are no longer alive. Over time, slippage occurs in that their corporeality, their very aliveness, diminishes in our memories and becomes increasingly difficult to grasp; a consequence of letting go, and perhaps a blessing. But losing hold can also be a source of distress and bring about feelings of betrayal to the lost loved one
The basis of the painting, above, entitled Lost Time was a photograph of a lot of children on the back of a donkey—these were my siblings and cousins. I once showed this photograph to a friend while describing the story of the photo which was that, immediately after the photo was taken, my uncle poked the donkey which then bucked and we all tumbled off. I described in detail the fear, the grabbing onto the child in front, the falling, the crying, etc. But when she asked which child was I, I saw that I was not on the donkey at all, but on the ground next to it. The photograph completely contradicted my memory of the event - a memory so strong that, despite having looked at the physical photograph many times over the years, I had failed to see the evidence before my eyes that, although a witness, the memory of the experience was not mine, perhaps it was my sister's who was among the kids on the donkey. This painting is actually about this sister. She died in 1999, just missing the millennium. The painting includes many items from her life including her passport, letters, maps, a contact sheet of "selfie" images she made, etc. Proof that she existed.
Lost Time - detail
These are common experiences to all of us, we all dream, have memories real and imagined—some are other people's stories that we have incorporated into our cache, as I clearly did with the donkey story. Eventually, who can tell what is real, dreamed, or stolen? The memory selects what to keep and what not to keep, and its choices can be quite selective and arbitrary; the memory is a novelist—if it comes across a good story or anecdote, it will appropriate it. These are the ideas I am exploring as I work on these paintings.
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