I got excited about participating in the Memorabila exhibtion and for a few weeks devoted my complete time to producing work for it.
Here were the results: (click on images for larger views)
"Big Bird Brought to You by the Letter J"
50x50cm acrylic on canvas
24x30cm acrylic on linen
"Memory (fish tank)"
approx 10x15x5cm acrylic on wood
One Christmas in the 1970's when I was a child in California my sister and I were given a huge dollhouse. All the furniture was made by hand to be a duplicate of our apartment (except even better because it had separate bedrooms for the sisters). My parents must have worked on it for a whole year. It was amazing.
One item was made by a close family friend who was a painter. He made a little copy of our fish tank. We moved often as my father was always searching for greener pastures. Each time we moved we left behind our possessions to “travel light” so I have no childhood possessions anymore.
The last one to go was that little painted wood fish tank. I still had it in my late teens.
For 'Memorabilia' I wanted to re-create this personal object. I thought it would be easy as it was a simple object. But as I made each decision about the size and shape I found that I didn't really remember. The harder I thought about it the less I was sure.
Each step in the creating process was one more unknown. So I made uncertain decisions about the size, shape, design, colours and kinds of fish and plants. I couldn't even say if the original had a cover or the water was visible on top. (I think the water was visible.) Did it have a covered back or were the plants and fish visible through from the front and rear? (Even less sure- but I think maybe it was visible.)
Before I started I was certain that I knew this object, but I came to realise I really only have a general idea of it. I have a memory of it that you can describe in words but not the specifics you need to paint a picture of it (the difference between the word ‘chair’ and a picture of a specific kind of chair). Although it feels like the picture in my mind is specific, that feeling is actually an illusion.
What I thought would be a comforting reminder of a relic of my childhood instead became a process of acceptance of the vagueness of memory. I had this toy for a long time. The fish tank was important to me so the vagueness is upsetting. It is disturbing to see how unreliable my memory is. Even important memories cannot withstand scrutiny.
I am my memories so if they are not solid what am I?
Two views of the building block set I did for Gillian Swan's project and one of it on display.
Acrylic and 24kt gold leaf on wood.