I thought it would be a good idea to put up images of my work with their individual, corresponding stories. So without further adieu, I give to you A Family Story:
This was the first piece of the series I created. I had been thinking for a long time about my family's history and the ways in which I was or wasn't affected by it. After a short while I realized that even though it was a history that didn't involved me, it was one I inherited. Those who suffer from abuse carry it with them all through their lives, often passing it on from generation to generation. This picture incorporates images I think of when I think of my Grandmother - the Raleigh cigarettes she loved to smoke, the Bourbon she loved to drink, and the Crisco she loved to cook with. It makes me chuckle to myself when I say this, but they all rank equal in my memories of her. Sadly, the great losses in her life drove her to drink; this made her less capable of dealing with the responsibilities of raising her children, which led her to beat them; the guilt of this drove her to drink more. A vicious cycle and one that remained with her most of her life.
The focal point of this piece is a family portrait of my Grandfather, Grandmother, Great-Grandmother, Mother and Uncles. This photograph is especially poignant to me because only a couple of years after it was taken the lives of those pictured would change drastically and irrevocably, when my Grandfather would die suddenly from a brain aneurism. At the top of the piece is a raffle ticket from 1958 and is significant for two reasons: my Grandmother loved a bit of gambling and after my Grandfather died she would be the sole caregiver to my mom and her brothers, which no doubt required a tremendous amount of strength. This picture is meant to have the feeling of good times while foreshadowing darker times to come.
After my Grandfather passed, my Grandmother had an illegitimate son with a family friend. It's hard for me to imagine what that must have been like especially in the '60s. I think about my Grandmother coping with such a heavy burden - being the sole caregiver and provder for a family of five, being a social outcast for having an afair with a married man and *gasp!* getting pregnant with a child out of wedlock; meanwhile, life goes on - there are mouths to feed and clothes to mend. it was for this reason I chose to use a photograph of my Grandmother squatting down next to my Uncle, who is not very happy. I believe they were dark days for everyone in the family and the full details of exactly what went on behind closed doors I don't know I'll ever uncover.
Somewhat less personal in application, this is more of a statement piece which, to me, highlights the psychological draw gambling can have on those who engage themselves with it - although you know the odds aren't in your favor, there's still that chance - that glimmer of hope - that you could win big. And when people have lost hope in life, the magnetism can be undeinable.
Meant as a bit of a tongue-in-cheek statement, this piece makes me what I hope comes across as an obvious play on the idea of games and gambling and where and how that line is crossed; when we are children playing board games it's meant to be about the spirit of healthy competition and good sportsmanship, but still pinning your hopes on your chances of winning. When we become adults, the stakes are raised and we play with money instead of plastic game pieces. Instead of drinking soda we drink beer or spirits. Somehow, despite being taught limitations as children, sometimes as adults we lose our inhibitions and spin out of control.
My family migrated to America from Norway. My Grandmother was a first-generation American. This piece is about that journey; in the top right is a map of Scandinavia superimposed with a photograph of my family's farm. the main picture is the farm my Grandmother grew up on. In the botton left is my Great Uncle Tennis, who was working as a milkman. Having visited Norway recently, I was struck to discover the landscape is very similar to where I grew up in Iowa. I wonder if that's why my family chose to settle there. This piece, to me, is a story of hope and new beginnings and is especially poignant as I make the transition as a new migrant to England.
Note: These following works borrow their titles from T.S. Eliot's poem (and my favorite) The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.
This is the work that launched this mini four-piece series which loosely explores the theme of home. A map of American has been used as the background, with a small hole cut out in the shape of the state of Iowa, which is my birthplace and also that of my family. The main focal point is a photograph of my Grandmother and Grandfather embraced in a kiss. I presume this was before they had children, so this was really the start of their lives. A paper crane has been placed in the lower left hand corner to symbolize hope and also the idea of two people embarking on a life journey. There's a reference to gambling with the Ace of Hearts die and poker chips image at the bottom of the photograph, suggesting that life is a gamble and for the time being, it's rolling on the side of luck.
This piece is meant to be a suggestion of a childhood - one that is a bit uneasy or slightly disturbed. The "fp" at the bottom is the Fisherprice logo from the '60s, which is near to when the photograph in the top panel was taken. In the photograph, my Mother and Uncles are standing on the steps of their house, dressed up in their Sunday best. There are smiles, but they are wary. My Mother looks at the camera with an expression I recognize in her today - one of uneasiness. The lower panel hosts a Bingo card and paper crane. To me, the Bingo card is symbolic of life, in a way. At the start of the game, everyone is handed a blank card that is full of promise, like a clean slate. There is the possibility you could be a big winner, a slight winner, or a loser. It's all a matter of chance. The person next to you gets handed a card - same size, same color, same paper, same weight even, but with different numbers. And it's all about those numbers. When the photograph I've used here was taken, that card was still empty - they were waiting for numbers to be called.
Again, the theme of gambling has been continued in this piece as demonstrated by the kentucky Derby betting ticket. The photograph is one of my Grandmother, Mother and Uncles when they are grown - while there are a few smiles, it still reads as an eerie and dark picture to me: one of my uncles stands in the shadow expressionless and another, who is in the forefront, whill have died just days after this photograph was taken. He'd returned home after being away from the family for several years, hence the use of the definition of home as "to return to one's home or natal area from a distance."
The definition of home I've used here is "the place or region where something is native or most common." My whole life, that's been a difficult thing for me to identify with. From the age of four, I've moved a total of 27 times and lived in seven American states before settling (for the time being) in England. I've always strugged being an outsider, fitting in, and learning how to adapt to a new culture. When the photograph that is used here was taken, it was during my first move to Montana. My mom had just gotten married. I was devastated. I had been torn away from my extended family and was scared. Life wouldn't be easy for me. My mom wasn't really ready to be a mom. My step-dad resented me for reasons it would take me years to understand and decades to accept. I became a bit of a loner. But somehow - and I still don't fully comprehend it - I managed to rise above it, like a phoenix rising from the ash. I have lived my life full of hope, full of a desire to learn and the yearning to explore this great and wonderful world we live in. Still, home is a concept I have a hard time defining. I think for me, it's the space I happen to occupy in the present.