Date of Award

12-2010

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Legacy Department

Visual Arts

Advisor

McDonald, Todd

Committee Member

Cross , Sydney

Committee Member

Wrangle , Anderson

Abstract

In this work, I investigate the fragmentary nature of my family history as perceived
through second and third hand experiences. Rather than functioning as an authoritative
documentation of the past, the resulting works emphasize the disconnection between direct and imagined experience. In the paper cut pieces and corresponding oil paintings,
photographs are excavated from the historical archive and strategically reassembled to create narratives. These partial accounts are accessed through the 'memory of a memory', extruded from a mental collection of stories that have been imparted to me at various times throughout my life. The experiences of my grandfather, great uncles, and father -- specifically linked to Polish existence during and after the Second World War -- operate as guides while I attempt to visually reconstruct the fragments of an emotionally jarring past.
Although multiple strategies are employed in this body of work, each piece is
formally organized by a collective element: the decorative motif. Derived from traditional
Polish paper cut designs known as wycinanki, these motifs shape the character of the space, both formally and contextually. They operate as a signifier of culture and location, as well as a visual device that both structures and destabilizes the spatial configuration, simultaneously unveiling and masking specific portions of the photograph. Instead of functioning as ornamental overlay, the motifs create spaces, holes, and absences within the imagery, omitting visual information and alluding to the inaccessibility of the past.
In the paintings, the physical act of painting from the composition of the paper cut
pieces points to a participatory or even voyeuristic interaction with photography. By
replicating what I see in the photograph, I meditate on the photograph as both image and object, and essentially, re-engage with the visual representation of my deceased family members. As the artist, my hope is that the work simultaneously brings to life the motionless faces of my ancestors while emphasizing the gap between what is tangibly known and what can only be imagined about the past.

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