They say we die two deaths: the first is our actual passing; the second is when the last person who carries a memory of us takes their final breath. Family photographs, vessels of memory, are therefore integral to extending this quasi-life. They show a mother, a child, a past self, full of in-jokes and minutia meaningful only to a select few. But divorced from their origins and subjects, these emotion-ridden images become empty and unknowable, for they are intrinsically entwined with the intimate memories of someone. They are timeless because photography can forever capture a moment, so much so that they have outlived their families and purpose, becoming orphans. As we drown in an overwhelming visual culture, what place does an old family photo have outside their original home?
In Forgetting is so long, I collect abandoned, anonymous family photographs, enlarge them past their familiar size, and paint over them. I paint to disrupt, to reimagine, to re-enliven these individuals until I can either no longer recognize them or their presence is too piercing to continue. By mixing painting with photography, I lengthen Roland Barthes’ “moment of death” (the photograph) into some semblance of purgatory. Not alive but not quite dead, each person’s newly imagined and altered portrait straddles the lines between memory, identity, and death.
All works in this series are mixed media paintings (oil-painted photo prints), mounted on panel.