Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Visual Art
Painted from the lost snapshot photograph collections of strangers, the Testimonial paintings represent both the mythical potential of earlier times and the maddening reality that no matter what details are revealed, they can only ever be ghosts of the glories and tragedies that preceded our own. In the search for their stories, for their truths, for their absent memories, everything and everyone that we could have known lies dormant. The ghosts, the legion of “selves” arise from the questions asked of the paintings, and through the invented answers that activate the fractured past. In order to do this, I analyze the concepts of postmemory and reflective nostalgia, exploring how they manifest as paintings.
Program Director's Department
Graduate School of Art
Rosenfeld, Rachel Ahava, "Of Ghosts and Garage Sales: The painted realizations of reflective nostalgia" (2016). Graduate School of Art Theses. ETD 62. https://doi.org/10.7936/K7B56H0J.
“Memory is a domain of obscurity: it is not to be trusted.”Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/K7B56H0J
I have spent this past year investigating the painted manifestations of a highly subjective exchange between the vast archive of lost photos and the descriptive and testimonial potential of observational painting. The surfaces were complicated by an assortment of masking devices ranging from cloudy metallic frames, to lustrous silver-leafed “redactions”, and finally to the more intricate painted overlays which abandoned shimmering areas altogether. These vehicles for disruption each carried their own particular implications, but their larger purpose was to visualize the tension between history, memory, and nostalgia.
Each painting draws on a personal archive of lost or unwanted photographs. These photos operate as documentary evidence in support of some vanished anecdote that is unknowable to both maker and observer. But while each photo retains its inherent lifeline to its long-departed referent, the paintings sever this connection entirely. They are no longer proof of anything. In their freshly mediated form, they become myths of the ordinary, valuable for their potential to inspire narrative. While their subjects might seem, at first glance to be pedestrian, their age and peculiar anonymity allow them to be catalysts for further speculation.
Allan Megill, The Collective Memory Reader, 196.