THE SENTIMENT OF MEMORY
My art explores memory and how people process their memories. Human nature dictates that memories fade, but I’m interested in the triggers that resurrect past memories and how those memories define and shape us in the present. There are so many influential people from our past whether it’s a grade school teacher, a long term relationship or even a short conversation with someone in passing on the F train that fade over time.
As we go though our everyday lives we may randomly come across the scent of chalk that reminds us of that third grade teacher who affected our choices or a song that brings back memories of an old friend we haven’t thought of in ages. They may have disappeared from our present consciousness, but had some meaningful influence on us nevertheless.
Memory became an integral component of my art when at 23 years old I became the head mental health counselor of a locked psychiatric unit where I was responsible for hundreds of patients. I engaged with countless people whose moving, yet untold stories were only going to be buried in that institution. As an artist I felt compelled to tell those stories with both my paintings and my interactive installation.
The way my conceptual component works is I place a portrait of my subject, which is painted on wood, into a plexiglass case filled with seawater. The seawater will dissolve the portrait over a lengthy period of time. Attached to the plexiglass case is a small box filled with a scent representative of the subject such as juicy fruit gum, musty books, tobacco, or old leather from a motorcycle jacket. Also attached is an iPod filled with music and recorded conversation that becomes the soundtrack to the subject’s life. The viewer takes in the scent and the sound while observing a dissolving portrait.
As in real life our visual memories of even the most important people from our past fade, my portraits also disappear. We are left with only the scents and sounds which serve as powerful memory triggers to remind us of that person’s existence and influence. For me, there’s importance in not forgetting.