A Place Unchanged

A PLACE UNCHANGED: Artist Statement

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered. – Nelson Mandela

Memory is our perception of reality, and we tend to romanticize our memories…

We see what we want to sometimes. In psychological terms, children are egocentric, able to see from only one vantage point – their own. And their reality is merely an internalization of their environment around them. For a child, their surroundings are “normal.”

Interpreted from childhood photographs, the artworks displayed here all include myself at the age of nine or younger; with childhood friends, my mother, my father, my brother, a great grandfather I never knew. These pieces reflect a reality different from what I thought I grew up with.

Photographs, without beginning a philosophical debate, show a visual reinterpretation of reality. In a sense, they are a place unchanged, a fact that cannot be argued. Yet, because we romanticize our memories, traveling back to this place unchanged, especially after several years, may alter one’s previously fixed perception of reality. In this way, the photographs I used showed something that was not the reality I thought I knew.

The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own. – Susan Sontag

The process of looking through several boxes of childhood photographs was a casual sifting-through of a lifetime, but it wasn’t mine. I seemed to be touring another’s reality. Like Sontag offers, the artifacts produced by a camera – photographs – made me a tourist in someone’s reality. Eventually, I realized I was touring my own reality by visiting these places unchanged – photographs – and finding that I had altered. I began to see details within these photographs that I had never had the ability to see as a child, and characteristics about myself that I had forgotten about.

The technical aspects of these paintings hint at the memories produced by looking back at photographs. Visible brushstrokes fill the backgrounds and give the pieces a dreamlike quality. Shadows from the photographs were exaggerated when included in the paintings, contributing to their dreamy depictions and evoking an ominous feeling as well.

The pieces also seem to express a sense of voyeurism. Whenever the subjects of a piece are not looking directly into the viewer’s eyes (or camera’s lens), the viewer may also develop this sense of voyeurism. Looking at candid photographs is like looking in on others’ lives, feelings, expressions, or emotions. This is somewhat uncomfortable and yet slightly satisfying – as though you can visibly see and recognize how others are human and relate in many ways to yourself.

During the process of this senior thesis, I realized that I wanted to show a growth in my work and the real culmination of my studies so far as an undergraduate. Yet after this process, I realize I have done more growth throughout it than I did the whole of undergraduate studies. Not only do I have a more solid and comfortable feel for my technical style, but I also have a new perception of my own character and reality.

Ultimately, our place within this reality is unchanged; we are ourselves – individuals – created by God. Perceptions will always change; I sincerely hope I may have changed some of your perceptions as you look at this work too, but we belong to a place of higher, Spiritual Truth and that is our reality – our place unchanged.

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