Memory Is Not Perfect

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This week I have been thinking about how the concept of departure manifests itself in my work. After all, my pieces are firmly rooted in particular places. I’ve thought about the relationship between St. Paul and Cottage Grove, the two cities I am most familiar with, and the distance that has always been at the center of this relationship. How does this distance, and the idea of leaving affect how I paint?

I am interested in the effect that passage of time and physical distance from a place affect memory; How some aspects of a place are forgotten while others are built up and become iconic. Revisiting these familiar places can create a disparity between the memory and the actual appearance of a place. It is amazing how quickly the mind can forget details, or even invent details that never existed. My process for making this series has involved visiting each location to take reference photos, sometimes returning for the first time in years. I had to confront the imperfection of my memory when gathering objective information for my paintings. By leaving the suburbs to observe these places in St. Paul again, I was mentally departing from the memories I had built up. All of us know spaces that we feel a connection with even if it is not where we currently reside. St. Paul is one of those places for me, and I am constantly going back and forth, both physically and mentally. It was only through distance from each city that I was able to determine what was most striking and what stuck in my memory most clearly.

The two realities of my memories and my photographs come together in my paintings as I try to portray realism, but still retain fidelity to my memories. Decisions I make such as what information to include or omit, my mark-making, framing and point of view incorporate my memories. Despite these freedoms I try to accurately replicate the images my camera has captured.  Painting allows for the slight alteration of the truth, making room for both to exist simultaneously.

-Cameron

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