A Living Space : A Special Project at the Provincial Archives of Alberta
A Living Space- A Alberta Archives Special Project
As a fourth generation Albertan I have always been interested in reconciling personal narratives with my familial past and the Provincial Archives of Alberta has provided me with a repository of our collective histories and wealth of inspiration for almost 10 years. This body of work displayed is entirely sourced from photographs found at the Provincial Archives of Alberta . The photographic sources are a mixture of times and places and were found through a variety of search techniques including by searching textual commonalities or using search words which describe the similarities between the visual description, or by searching locale or time, or searching using a more chance based technique- my favourite- the random opening of drawers. I have always loved the physical object-ness of the analog photographic image, the touch of the paper and the knowledge how labour intensive the process was. In all cases there had to be a reason I was drawn to the source photographic image. Sometimes it was the light, sometimes it was the very specificity of the physical scene. For example it could be the vase, the rug, or the folds in the fabric that I believed could be translated into something visually interesting through editing and the addition of colour or changing the materiality. There are a variety of themes and threads that string through all of the works (drawings and paintings) and the installation is designed to allow for associations to be suggested. It is my hope that the viewer can see patterns that become a pattern without being overly illustrative. I hope the exhibition elicits feelings rather than dictates opinion. As it is not designed to be a linear timeline, rather I see all of the works together or in groupings as overlayed narratives that collectively map out the complexities of our shared Albertan history, a history tied so closely to our colonial past. The window fashions, the appliances, the building supplies, the urban planning are all part of the social infrastructure that was shared with my familial past. At the outset of this project, faced with thousands of photographs housed at the archives, I became fascinated in how these physical documents were assessed by significance, recorded into the collection and organized to be accessible. Finding specifics around living spaces was not a direct path. The language around locating particular subject matter further exposed how colonial, engendered, and economic systems entrenched in understanding our Albertan Histories. By reflecting on this past we can find meaning in our present and bring awareness to our current value systems. With so many images left to see in the Provincial Archives I have yet to see, I can safely say this body of work is ongoing. My painted scenes aim to expose the gap between the social ideals and how we live imperfectly behind closed doors, without the expectations of an audience. As we gaze into the disembodied spaces, in absence of its players, the viewer will try to make sense of the scene and without any specific character reference they will only have their own experiences to guide them. The objects and furniture act as an inventory of desires and fears and when we look into these as a social mirror, we can see the personal implications as the voyeur, which can be both comforting and uncomfortable. We all subconsciously and consciously analyze and pass judgements based on personal coded value systems. By focusing on creating mood with the dramatic use of light and shadow, the private living rooms become a stage or theatre in which a range of social interactions play out. In many instances, it was the imperfect compositions of an ammatour photographer, the strange viewpoint that captured my interest. Inspired by filmic suspense masters such as Alfred Hitchcock, Atom Egoyan, and David Lynch; I often cropped, I added and I subtracted information, and I edited to turn the photographic images to emotive paintings. My references to film and literature are layered into the works and titles and become another way for the viewer to find different ways to identify with the scene. As the colour is all invented, I like to think I am transforming the historical fact into historical fiction and or magic realism.