still beneath the surface





The body of work and exhibition still beneath the surface explores various manifestations of mourning, the limits of empathy, and the intersection of photographic and sculptural concerns. It draws upon the Victorian-era photographic and craft traditions of post-mortem imagery, “hidden mother” portraits, and mourning objects. By bringing references from different historical periods into a shared visual space, I point to questions about mortality and the memorial properties we attach to particular objects and spaces as we cope with loss.

The exhibition featured a site-specific installation in the front room of the Los Angeles gallery Commonwealth & Council that housed a photograph titled Post-Mortem Mom/Me. In post-mortem imagery, photographers would occasionally paint open eyes on a deceased person's eyelids, or paint eyes on the photographic print or negative. I responded to that gesture by placing photos of my deceased mother's eyes over mine in an attempt to transpose bodies and perspectives, and then embedded the photo under the planks of a constructed pine floor. To see the photograph, viewers had to kneel or bend down to view it through a small opening.

In "hidden mother" tintypes or carte de visites, women would often appear in the photographs made of their children, hidden beneath a decorative cloth in order to hold the children still. In Hidden Daughter Portrait, these roles are disrupted. Rather than steadying a moving child, I hold the last photographic portrait I made of my mother, asking viewers to consider the performativity and vacillation of attention that happens in these types of images.

The remaining photo/sculptural piece references the Victorian tradition of carrying a handkerchief with an embroidered black band as a sign of mourning. Instead of embroidering with thread, I sewed a band onto an inherited handkerchief with strips of family photographs. Like the other works, it binds together objects that are materially and temporally mismatched out of a desire to maintain a tactile connection with people and experiences that have passed. 


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