As a long-time lover of the genre of memoir and autobiography, the process of creating a coherent narrative—complete with beginnings and endings, dramatic climaxes and resolutions—from raw life experience is endlessly fascinating to me. Intrigued by the idea of art as visual storytelling, I set out to create a collection of works that might function as memoir art.
In creating the charcoal portraits that appear as focal points in my art, I am drawn in by the challenge of capturing subtle, multilayered emotions in women’s faces. Watchful eyes sometimes meet the viewers’ own and sometimes not, but always the faces communicate something definite and yet open to interpretation, inviting the viewer to determine the meaning of these ambiguous expressions.
Once I have a charcoal portrait in hand, I begin sifting through my vast store of ephemera collected over decades—journal writings, letters and photographs, bits of fabric and cloth, books, and fragments of old poems long-ago boxed and forgotten. Sensing what the charcoal portrait evokes in my own memory, I ask what story I could tell about my life by layering particular pieces of my history onto the charcoal portrait, now a stand-in for myself, a snapshot of me at a precise moment in time.
The process of layering collage in this way mirrors my fascination with the evolution of how we understand our lives and how we tell our stories. With each additional layer of life experience, our perspectives widen, and in response, our narratives shift and adjust, so that the stories we tell at 50 may bear little resemblance to the ones we told at 25. We’ve become archeological sites worth excavating, with layer upon layer of artifacts telling the story of who we are and who we once were.