One of the great joys of my life is working with students, especially on thesis shows. The thesis is an exercise in artistic discovery, of artistic merit, and for artistic tenacity; the show that results is never the show that was planned. And that itself is the most rewarding moment for me in my own shows, too, the looking back on the long and unanticipated road traveled, all the while relishing the destination achieved.
This image is part of a diptych called “The Ostensibility of Nostalgia.” When this project began, I planned no such pieces, and looked for no paths to achieve them. But as I was recovering more pieces from one of the doomed homesteads that have provided many of the materials for the show, several artifacts spurred me to think in groups, in new concepts I hadn’t yet considered.
The show is better for it.
The Recollections show opens in less than one month (April 20), with the reception on May 1 from 5–7. The pieces are composed and prepared, and now mounting and construction will begin in earnest.
Here’s a preview of Intuition under construction.
“I felt…cold,” she said. “Like I wasn’t alone.”
“So you’ve seen her,” the night clerk chuckled.
“Don’t you know the old Jones place is haunted?” she shivered.
“Something awful happened in the barn, and they didn’t want it haunting the ranch,” he warned.
We have all felt it, or at least thought we have. Some may have seen it, or heard it, or dreamt it. But the reality is that our reality is punctuated with the untouchable, the unseeable, and the unexplainable.
I have photographed this bleak outpost in the openness of Wyoming more times than I can count, often from the same angle, but with different lenses, different weather, different techniques and different light. Yet the building remains the foundation of all the images, the solidity of thought within my eidetic soul. What might be if I swayed from this spot? This place? This commitment?
I find the concept of spreading activation, or the involuntary triggering of complex memory, a uniquely fascinating concept; one element brings all.
I have known many who could not purge the visual past from the present. In fact, many we know exhibit such cognitive intransigence, those moments and minutes which seem locked in their omnipresent consciousness, and the flickers of memory mixed with constructions of torment seem as real as the day they were hatched.
It is always a daunting, emotional exercise beginning a new project, and this one began in the spring of 2013 as I began to explore the human conception–and illusion–of memory. That’s a big project, and a complex one to boot, since memory is both tough to define as well as difficult to understand. In a nutshell, it boils down to this: What is reality, and what is perception? Or are they the same thing?
I hesitate to explain the philosophy behind the Recollections show, but here’s a hint: Alfred Schutz, the prominent social philosopher, notes that social experiences are constructed and shared by members of a culture. What those realities reveal presents a clue into the phenomena that underlie the very realities which they inspired.
The Recollections project is about memory: how it is formed, the illusions within, and its temporal existence. What are our memories?
The goal: To make us question the very nature of our own “reality.” In that reality, how sharp is our own version of our past, and of others’ pasts?
In September 2013—while I was in SoHo for a show opening—the Nebraska Arts Council notified me I had been awarded one of the eight shows the council grants in their gallery (the Fred Simon in Omaha’s Old Market). It is a great honor, and like the last time I opened a major show, I now will begin releasing images a few months before in order to give my online audience a sneak peak of the pieces. As a disclaimer, the digital images that will appear here are nothing like the physical pieces that will show in the Fred Simon Gallery, but to find out what those differences are, you’ll need to attend.
And thus, here is the first image in my new series, “Recollections.” If you’re interested in the meanings and themes in the images I’ve been exploring, just comment below, and we’ll start a conversation.