Ancestor Portraits

Artist Statement

I have felt an escalating curiosity about, and connection to the past and have been drawn back through time, beyond my family and ancestors, beyond recorded history to the dawn of humankind and the animals that preceded humans.

Bones are what remain after we die, but they are, for me, an expression of longing to be identified with something beyond myself, something planetary. I feel mystery, reverence, and great awe in the presence of these ancient remnants. What is ancient reminds me of our deep connection to nature and each other, a bond easily lost in our fast-paced, high tech lives.

This series addresses concepts of time, wherein vertebrates from a time in pre-history and displayed in museums in a nineteenth-century manner are in dialogue with the twenty-first century, through my own manipulations of the images. The lighting makes them appear to float, like embryos, inviting viewers to contemplate profound aspects of our being: birth, death—in this case, extinction—and the possibilities of transformation.

Use of hands-on, time-intensive processes seems particularly appropriate for this subject matter. Toners and watercolor are used to visually capture a quality of living energy. Selective bleaching on the prints felt reminiscent of an archeological dig, in which years are eaten away. My own marks on negatives are the kind man has made since the beginning of time. They establish the human connection. Though random, some coalesce into primal symbols, such as circles and triangles. Through the marks layers of time are reflected, as well as layers of space and distance—our distant selves.

Images are taken with a Holga camera, the simple plastic lens of which creates a soft-and-sharp distortion that corresponds more to the images we carry in our mind’s eye.

I wish to explore how these instinctual, archetypal forms tap into deeper, unconscious forces in us and to stimulate a dialogue between the ancient and contemporary. Saying "I feel it in my bones" reminds us that history - the history of the world, in fact - is in us.