Whenever I visit my mother in Barbados, she tries to throw away belongings from the family home. Shoeboxes of heavily damaged family photos from the 1980s - printed with poor quality one-hour printing - made it to her list. The print quality combined with the intense tropical humidity mean that the images are damaged by mildew and stuck together. Now a collection of small uneven bricks, they contain the narrative of my youth, portraying family and friends -a number of whom are no longer alive -and landscapes of a more isolated, pre-internet time on the island, a time that no longer exists. Even if carefully peeled apart, many of the images are only partially legible with ink transferred onto the backs of others or mottled by mildew, abstracted and oddly beautiful.
This artwork was generously supported by an Ontario Art Council Visual Artists Creation Project grant.
The Shape of Memory (Fragmented)
The Shape of Memory explores the elusive meaning of home, how we perceive the past and recreate memories through photographs. It considers what it means to not have any visual mementos of your life. What do lost and illegible photographs represent, particularly when the concept of home becomes ambiguous? How do images become memories in themselves? How do these damaged images become a metaphor of the imperfection of human memory? The unpeeling, layering and reconstruction of the "photo bricks" tells a story of loss due to migration and climate that is common to many islanders and migrants.
The Shape of Memory (Constructing)
The Shape of Memory comprises three sections: Fragments, Constructing and Traces, which function independently or together as interdependent series. Fragments consists of several enlarged scans of the archival family photographs paired with photo collages and abstracted drawings of my family tree located throughout the Caribbean based on my DNA. Fragments mimics how our memories can be lucid at moments and completely inaccurate at others pairing memories together incorrectly. Constructing is a series of 15 images of photo-sculptures in which I use the stuck together photographs to reconstruct half-forgotten memories and create new memories. Traces is a series of 15 images of the backs of the photographs, which told as much story as the fronts. Parts of different images transferred onto the backs as they became stuck due to humidity. My mother's handwriting could be seen regularly noting the event, the date and sometimes the names of the people found in the photograph. Traces honours women who are often the archivists of families, keeping track of events, documenting the stories of their families.
The Shape of Memory (Traces)