Locked in Memory (2010). Mixed Media: Digital Image printed on transparency film, aluminum grommets, metal fence staple, and antique brass lock on 8” x 10” x 1” birch plywood. Private collection.This piece was created while completing the requirements for an independent study class in my graduate degree program at East Carolina University.
The Story: Like most of my work it is narrative in nature. Fluffy new snow falling outside my windows began to amass, forming mounded structures on the remains of last year’s plants in the garden. The image in front of me heralded another in the recesses of my mind, that of a flock of wooly sheep grazing in a friend’s pastures; as my mind wandered it was brought back to this place in another time. Our farm, when it was tended by my husband’s grandfather, had been the home of over a hundred sheep. Digging through my digital files and family photos I began to pull together images: sheep from my friend’s farm taken on shearing day a couple of years ago, a photo of Papa in our pasture surrounded by a few of his sheep taken in the 50’s, an image of the corner posts of our pasture fence, handmade latches from our barn that were created by my father-in-law, and a photo of the newly fallen snow on the pasture taken from the shelter of my front porch. Each image was chosen with the intent of completing the story. The snowy landscape, vintage photo and sheep image, besides being united in theme, share a color scheme that allow them to melt and flow into each other like memories…boundaries blur, blend, coalesce. The lines of the fence, broken and fragmented, fail to completely “fence” the image in. The lock, with its bright red hue and rough texture, provide a nice contrast to the soft muted hues, and serve to contain the image. The old crusty brass lock with its original chain provides tangible evidence that the past, visible only in memories, is final…unchangeable…irretrievable….forever Locked in Memory.
The Process: The photos were combined and manipulated in Photoshop CS4 to produce the background image. The red latches in the digital image cried out for a wooden substrate, and I knew I wanted the wood to become part of the image. I initially felt that photo transfer techniques would be the best method for placing the image on the substrate. However I had very little success with producing a clear image using this process. After a few days of consternation, I decided to print the image on transparency film and mount it to the wooden base. Although it “worked” physically, the result was visually incomplete. Again, I allowed the issue to fester in my mind. Finally, I realized the latch needed tangible closure. The old padlock, which belonged to Papa, had hung keyless on the stairwell wall since before we called this old farmhouse home. Lacking a key, this link to the past was literally nailed in place with a staple from my husband’s fencing bucket. It was the piece needed to hold the image together.
The Personal Outcome: This piece proved to be a bit of a stretch for me. I struggled with the mechanics of bringing the image in my mind to its physical reality. I had to find alternative solutions that allowed me to express my ideas. The addition of an actual three-dimensional element to a primarily two-dimensional piece was new to me. I am inspired by the possibility of incorporating tangible links between my physical world and that which exists within my mind.