Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Frame of Reference-MFA Show

For those of you who weren't able to attend my Master of Fine Art Thesis Show, here are the images, video, and artist's statement.

Body of work as it appears in the gallery:

Detail shots of individual images:


Link to the video:


 Artist's Statement

Writer Susan Sontag once said, “All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.”

One of the things that has always fascinated me about photography is this “freezing of time,” if you will. It’s always amazed me that though life marches on in an unstoppable flux, moments can be frozen in the form of photographs and revisited.

The contact sheet format in this body of work is a reference to contact sheets that are used in film photography. When looking at a contact sheet, one expects to find a linear progression through time. However, when looking at the contact sheets that I digitally created, the viewer sees a movement of time that skips from past to present to past again. This nonlinear portrayal of time shows how the past influences the present when memories are recalled. It’s also shown in the video I am exhibiting, where old home movies are layered with recently shot footage. Both the video and digital images also express how much of an impact memory can have on the present, which in essence, is the basis of grieving.

I lost my mother two years ago to cancer. The day after she died, I learned that my family home that was in her name and that I was supposed to inherit was going to be seized by the government to pay outstanding medical bills. It is a huge loss for me on two levels: a loss of a loved one and a loss of a legacy.

My grandparents emigrated from Greece seventy years ago and were typical participants in the American Dream of the twentieth century. They initially lived in a one-room apartment in downtown Toledo, worked hard to make their business successful which eventually enabled them to buy a house where both my mother and I were raised. Being the only kin, it is up to me to clear this home of personal property before it gets turned over to the government. Going through three generations of personal possessions brings up a multitude of memories and intensifies the grieving process. My mother was a professional bellydancer, taking the art very seriously. She performed both internationally and nationwide, made her costumes by hand, and owned her own dance school where she taught bellydancing. As I pack up her things, I come across her costumes, sewing materials, instructional books, and other items that she used for performing and teaching. Her vocational devotion has been one way that I have been remembering her.

Consequently, I have been learning firsthand how the past affects the present in the form of memories, whether they are joyful reminiscences or longing to be with ones that are gone. I’ve also been learning that elation and loss are both integral facets of life. Existence is fleeting and years go by, but photographs can bring back memories that sometimes seem like the only things we can truly possess.

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