“You’ll always have the memory,” is not quite true. Current scientific thought informs us that each time we remember something it is re-filed as a new memory. Over time, like a photocopy of a photograph, the details drift and what we remember may have no basis in “fact” – and we aren’t even aware of it. It feels like the memory is true, but most likely what we remember is not the actuality. Information and nuance are lost to the processes of the mind. We can’t help it. The inner story of our lives becomes a narrative of increasing smoothness.
The works featured in And After are an exploration of our imprecise perception and retention of the past. They do not depict the specific memory of an instance. They function as skeletons, guideposts, or mental armatures supporting a thin web of memories replayed many times. They speak of remembrance, giving form to the idea of memory. Physical things that harken to the totems that wash ashore in our interior landscape like time-tumbled driftwood or bones, stripped of the living layers and relegated to reminders of what once was.
My mom died in late 2013. A line was drawn in my life: before, and after. Even as I experienced it, I was conscious of how my memories would fade, and it broke my heart. We can’t hold on, no matter how we wish we could. I had lost her and would continue to do so for the rest of my life. After she died I stopped making work for over six months.
My prior work had been an investigation of multiples, pattern, and repetition, and how order could be created or subverted. But now, that work felt distant and too cooly cerebral. There was no order, no meaning – only turmoil and upset, uncertainty and grief. The idea of art was painful. To capture what I was experiencing, I needed randomness and less control over the final form; a raw and more physically expressive approach.
The sheer physicality of fabricating this work, the sweaty, active interplay between me and the metal, is important to its formation. The steel underlying these works has been pounded, twisted, bent, smashed, torqued, wrestled, wrenched, hammered, beaten, coaxed, cut, folded, torn, riveted, welded. There is no undoing a smashed metal tube or crumpled sheet metal. The memory of the action is impressed into its physical presence.
The surfaces of these works consist of layers of torn paper and glue, which soften and smooth the form – encasing, blending, and preserving it. These layers of paper and glue create a distance from the raw physicality of the making. There were monotonous days of sitting, applying strips of dipped-in-glue brown paper one by one. It was with feelings of amazement that I watched the paper skin slowly envelope the raw steel and turn it into something that had never existed before. Then came hours of sanding and coloring. I’ve touched every inch of this work multiple times. The surface has been polished smooth and soft through frequent handling, like the effect of time upon memory.
There is grief, and fear, love, frustration and release in this work, and also the joy of creation and of coming to terms with inevitable change. There is a forgivingness here. A letting go and accepting what comes next. The human mind softens the past, dulling the sharp edges and painful thorns. The acute immediacy of now has passed, and that has receded into then. A rosy glow permeates the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. The colors of Fall emerge to place the memories far enough away that they can be re-lived with an air of nostalgia, a mourning for then and when; a quiet narrative told through worn textures and colors.
What I remember the memory to be – memory of the memory of the memory –