No Memory is Ever Alone is a visual conversation between my dad and I. He used to bring out a box of slides that he photographed in his late teens and early 20s every Christmas and made us view them on an old projector on our living room wall telling the same stories every year. It was a consistent memory from a childhood where we moved a lot and I never felt like I had a steady “place” to live and create memories.
I realized that by placing the slides in my current landscape, I created not only a connection between his life and mine, but a trail of memories, each that had its own association for both of us. A lot of these slides are of my mom, they were together almost 60 years. She passed away recently and I feel like her spirit, and all the spirits of the past, are around us. These little vignettes of family life in my current “space” comforts me that she and others are still near, watching over me. They create a “home” for me wherever I go.
I did not want to Photoshop that connection. Part of the process that was necessary for me was to find the right location and feel my dad’s slides united with how I live today – a place within a place, a memory within a memory.
The final archival digital images are 20" x 20" matted and framed.
The White House China is a series of photographic and mixed media reconstructions based on the collection of dinnerware at the presidential residence in Washington, DC. Depictions of china are based on the official state and family china collections of the presidents they represent or that of their predecessors.
Aiming to correct certain historical omissions, I began this project to explore the iconography and incongruity of an America established through violent conquest yet framed by elegant theory. A country once perceived as a beacon for democracy has at its root, the constant struggle for social justice. Embedded in a patriotic narrative, the rise and economic glory of the United States was fueled by the eradication of indigenous people, enslavement of Africans and the exploitation of natural resources. The White House was no exception to this opportunism.
Inspired by early political illustrators who used their explosive imagery to reveal injustice behind the country’s facade of equality, these re-creations look at presidential contradictions and pivotal judgements made throughout the nation’s history. My intent is to shine a light on often-destructive events which happened by decision or neglect within each administration, providing a stark contrast to the assumption of civilization and culture set around historic dining tables.
The images are digital photographs of photographic assemblages. The dinnerware is not ceramic. Each piece was created by combining photographs of ceramics or digitally painted plate rim patterns with historical illustrations. These assemblages were then color printed and hand cut to make two-dimensional paper props which were re-photographed in real settings. I intend to show them as approximately 11×14, 20x24, and 30x40 archival pigment prints.
Medium: Tintypes - wet plate collodion, sizes vary: 3-1/8” x 4” and 6-1/4” x 8”
From scenes of gun violence that make the national news, to my 61-year-old mother suddenly deciding to carry, incidents of gun use haunt me with curiosity and fear. Having no personal attachment to guns, I am grappling with present day societal reverberations and implications of the gun in American culture.
To create this series, I set up my darkroom tent and tintype gear at known target shooting locations in the Arizona desert. I meet gun enthusiast strangers and ask if they are willing to participate in my project. I create their tintype portraits, and when complete, I give them the option to use the image as target. Some take part – leaving bullet holes in the plate. “Shot” refers simultaneously to my use of the camera and the participant’s use of the gun.
Tintypes were the primary form of photography during the American Civil War – another time when the country exhibited vast divides. Soldiers often posed for their tintype in military uniform and with weaponry. My use of this form of photography in contemporary time elaborates on these connections to history.
I view this project as a method to investigate and provoke both personal and collective consciousness. How might we need to re-consider this time in our history? When do/did our rights become our burdens? How do we want to think of our social or political opposite, and how might crossing uncomfortable boundaries potentially lead to positive change? How do we freshen the all-too-often predictable “gun debate”, and instead pursue an exchange to reconcile our differences and move beyond our current impasse?
One of art’s great powers is its subjectivity. It is possible to love art that you alone love, and to despise art that is universally appreciated. (I’ve never been a fan of Wes Anderson movies, and I’m pretty sure I’m the only one.) This subjectivity is such a blessing when you come across a poem, podcast, novel, or work of visual art that speaks to you – to your very cells – and you feel connected, understood, and that you resonate with another human, through the experience of their creation.
I juried this Project Launch Grant while working from home, in self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic of Spring 2020. I looked at thousands of photographs, and read the words of hundreds of photographers. I treasured the opportunity to go with them to the places they had been – both literal and imaginative – through their work. I valued the way the artists had opened themselves to their audiences, embracing vulnerability and revealing themselves through their work. Art making is such an act of bravery; and in the context of social distancing, I so appreciated the way our artists create and express to allow the rest of us to share in and learn from their process.
When I saw Catherine Panebianco’s No Memory is Ever Alone it spoke to me, to a place where my own family history is connected by flat yellow boxes of 35mm transparencies, and my father making photographs, and slide shows on the wall of the family room. The materiality of family photographs melded with an exploration of what those family photographs record, which struck a chord and opened up a place deep in me. We know photography is magic. This body of work effectively draws me in to that alchemy and reminds me of its beautiful complexity. I hope supporting this project allows it to reach others who will similarly feel uplifted and engaged by these photographs.
While family and its construction feels so significant right now, my sense of the politics of our nation is looming large as well. What do we value? How do we resolve our differences? How will we address societal inequities that have been made so obvious in this moment of threat? Honorable mentions go to Kathleen Y. Clark (with her project White House China) and Kari Wehrs (with her body of tintypes called Shot), two women who, through the very construction of their work, have engaged creativity, conceptual rigor, and strong aesthetic effect to ask powerful questions about these issues.