In memory, the slant of a door, contents of a page, or sound of a voice can exist simultaneously even though the original events may have occurred years apart. This interleaving of occurrences, and the challenges of representing the resulting differing accounts, is the current focus of my work. My preoccupation with the processes of layered memory arises from the strange layerings and disparities of my childhood experiences in rural southern Virginia; although I grew up on a college campus as the child of academics, that campus was located in a very rural and primarily black southern community. Surrounded by a fundamentalist religious poor and an all-male college which required Greek, Latin and rhetoric and held its students to a southern honor code, I began to question the assertions of the two cultures and to value my ability to examine the surrounding landscape as it seemed the only absolutely fixed object in my experience. As is probably typical of a bi-cultural child, I viewed myself as partially belonging to both communities but fully belonging to neither; I consequently was drawn to the decay of abandoned houses and the more primal human similarities between the two cultures in an attempt to find what common elements held the two together and placed them in the same existence.
This cultural disparity was also exaggerated by historical factors; my particular county in Virginia is saturated in history—from the civil war to the civil rights movement—and the presence of these events was still palpable in the air. For example, the school I attended for twelve years chose to close rather than integrate during the civil rights movement. At the time I entered elementary school, there was still implicit segregation and my parents were criticized for sending me to the predominately black public school instead of the local all white private school. There were also physical remnants of history all around—from abandoned slave cabins, mass confederate graves, and civil war trenches to the division of the town into black and white neighborhoods.
The need in my formative educational experiences to be able to read both sets of cultural signals also heightened my perceptive abilities and made me more attentive to the inflections and nuances of language. One of the consequences of this attentiveness is my awareness of the fine line between "story" and "history." As a child, I would hear the story of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, then the story of a slave who be-headed his master in the field with a scythe. Although only one of these stories is officially historical, both showed me how my town and community perceived itself. It is this self-reflection I am interested in dissecting— what stories are told, how they are told, and what preoccupations they reveal.
Although my art no longer exclusively deals with the events of my childhood, my insistence on representing multiple points of view can be traced back to those experiences, as can my desire to show how perception changes with perspective. My more recent prints and drawings experiment with this idea of multiple events occurring concurrently through framing; by dividing space into sections, I am attempting to create a sense of simultaneity. In thinking about this problem, I have been particularly influenced by medieval painting, which often will present a narrative sequence by repeating figures (or in my case, landscape) to symbolize motion in time. This repetition also suggested a sequence of film stills, which I have adapted by fragmenting sections to evoke entering a story in the middle of the action. Through experimentations such as these, I intend to continue investigating that fine line between story and history, and to explore the significances of sequencing in how a story is told.
above: "Code Diptych" - etching and chine collee, each plate 4" x 4" - all rights reserved by the artist.
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