Hometown Dreams: Memory and Change
I dreamed that the sky became the sea. I stood with my mother and father on the railroad tracks that split the town in two. We watched in awe as buildings floated high above the horizon, and away.
Reflections of trees not yet uprooted, hung upside-down over our heads. I held an antique box camera but did not take a photograph. (1988)
Memory fragments twist and turn in my mind’s eye as though moving through space and time.
The metaphor is autobiographical and based upon the inevitability of change.
All art is experiential and autobiographical.
My prairie roots were intertwined with people from various sociological, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds who shared an upbringing in and around a rural east-central Alberta community. Our great-grandparents and grandparents immigrated to Canada at the turn of the century, mine in 1902. Their children, my parent’s generation, remained and built a vital community, their efforts culminating after WWII with the boom of the 1950s. But the Boomer generation left home for the sake of further education and employment in larger centers and many towns faltered. The subsequent development of corporate chains such as Canadian Tire and later Wal-Mart shut down what was left of locally owned businesses and the proverbial “Main Street” storefronts were abandoned. Hardware stores, clothing shops, and the local five and dime store were no longer viable. Even grain elevators, historically the essential visual signifier of rural Alberta, were replaced with large, more efficient, centralized systems.
None of us live exclusively in the present. What we understand as being “now” is in fact an amalgamation of personal and collective experiences interacting with a current framework of existence. This defines who we are. In recent years, I have become more aware of the significance of this interaction not only in myself but also in that of colleagues friends and family. As an example, my mother is now 93 years old and her own existence is permeated with increasingly vague and distant images and thoughts that make up who she is. I am now myself 62 years old and this level of awareness becomes increasingly significant.
My previous works, all mixed media series, address the question of the elusiveness of experience, memory and time. My “Transitional Form” series addresses the linear movement through space and time whereby perceptions are merged into images of transitional motion. The metaphor is autobiographical and based upon the inevitability of change and alludes to loss of memory. My mixed media series “Canyon Melt” addresses the transitional states from ice to liquid to mist. This capacity for metamorphosis has autobiographical meaning and is related to the inevitable cycles of life and the cycles within life.
The importance of my relationship with the rural community is paramount to my perception and my own hometown and family serve then as both subject matter and metaphor for an understanding of the complex relationship between my own background and that of Canadian society at large.
There are obvious personal complexities involved. Physically moving away from the area and having to view my own heritage from a different perspective has resulted in a perceptual stance of looking back at my own history and that of the individuals involved. I could distance myself or become more involved and this conflict became manageable through the use of photography and the positioning of the camera as being half way between the subjective and objective.
The conflict between conscious memory, subconscious memory, and reality form the framework for my work.