Memory of Absence
So much of who we are is passed from generation to generation—our genes, our behaviors—molded by our parents and grandparents. My mother’s relationship with her mother was fraught with difficulties and these same dynamics were passed onto me. I have spent many years contending with these issues by first becoming overly involved in my mother’s life and then ultimately removing myself. In 2017, my mother and father—who had not lived together for 50 years by that time—died within three days of each other. After my sister and I inherited my mother’s home, we were startled to find the extent to which she had been hoarding. We discovered her journals, copious letters written to family members and never sent, and everyday objects and photographs depicting many family scenes that I have no memory of. A profound sadness combined with these surprising discoveries led to my creating this body of work exploring feelings, memories and even buried memories—all brought to the surface through these revelations.
In this series, Memory of Absence, I combined botanicals and natural materials together with the everyday objects and family photographs in order to convey a sense of memory and loss. The organic and volatile botanicals serve as a reminder of the ever-changing nature of memory and emotions—an unstable and profoundly unreliable process, as fragile as scraps of embroidery as complicated and garbled as tangles of magnetic tape. Text plays a key role as well, her words intertwined with mine.
My creative process begins with composing and photographing a still life of the botanicals together with the objects that I have collected and saved from my mother’s home. I then print out the image and create yet another still life by layering more objects with the print and then re-photograph this composition. There by giving a further sense of the complex and layered emotions found within family dynamics.