JUNE 2ND TO JULY 9TH
ARTIST RECEPTION SATURDAY, JUNE 11 5 - 8 PM
View Elin Spring's Review Below
In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.
- Alex Haley
In the months to come, as we prepare to honor mothers and fathers, and make plans for summer events with family and friends, we are pleased to announce the upcoming exhibition, Family Outing, featuring the work of photographers Astrid Reischwitz, Gail Samuelson and Alysia Macaulay as well as video art by Furen Dai. Each artist presents work skillfully sourced and crafted from family archives and the currency of their memory banks.
Stories from the Kitchen Table
I have created Stories from the Kitchen Table to preserve and honor a fading way of life in my childhood home.
Going home for me means traveling back to my family’s old farmhouse in a small village in Germany. It is the last remaining untouched house in the town. Going home evokes many different emotions. Most powerful is my need to document my childhood home, the people who passed through, and what, one day soon, will be left behind.
The very essence of home for me is gathering around the kitchen table to sit down to a meal with family and friends and share stories old and new.
In “Stories from the Kitchen Table”, some of my composites include old family photos combined with what I see today when I return home. I add flowers and fragmented images of fabric: dish towels, tablecloths, napkins, and decorative wall hangings (dating back to 1799) were passed down from generation to generation.
Keep it for Luck
These clothes, hats, and personal objects belonged to my mother, my father, and my favorite aunt, Florence. Florence designed classic women’s dresses in the 1950’s, while my parents sold girl’s party dresses in the 1970’s.
I photograph their objects alone and make a series of self-portraits wearing their clothes. I enjoyed so much wearing my father’s WW II navy uniform, that I also dressed up as my husband John.
My mother didn’t love her wedding dress, as it wasn’t white or fancy. The fragile beige silk gives way, as I arrange it for the camera. Her satin negligee shimmers with its pinked seams, hand-sewn zipper, and pleated bodice. Her long line bra molded her to the ideal shape pictured in Ladies Home Journal.
Florence carried crocodile and beaded handbags, each with a pocket mirror and a tissue to blot her lipstick. Though intelligent and educated in Paris, she was superstitious. She saved wishbones and collected fig hands to ward off the evil eye. She knew with hard work and good luck, she could make a killing.
It’s a Mixed Up World
Alysia Macaulay It’s a Mixed-up World Shadow Box Series ©2016
I have always used photography as a means to explore, understand and document the growth and constantly evolving dynamic within my family. This latest series, a collection of shadow boxes, continues in that vein, while simultaneously heading in a new and unexpected direction.
Each box is comprised of layers of reality, yet when combined, they become entirely fictitious. The individual elements found within these boxes are culled from years of photographing my children and the places that we have explored. As well, in some instances I have incorporated letters and images from generations past. Placement and perspective serve to both disorient and enrich the fantastical worlds that lie within each box.
Message Through Generations and Commandments for Women
WHAT WILL YOU REMEMBER? - ELIN SPRING:REINVENTING FAMILY
Just as every culture has a creation myth, each of our families creates its own mythology that changes over time. As we come of age, we gain stewardship of our family histories, adding our own spin and passing it onto to the next generation. Women primarily have been the keepers of family history, shaping the foundation of our traditions and identities. In a fascinating group show that expands on this custom, photographers Astrid Reischwitz, Gail Samuelson and Alysia Macaulay, as well as video artist Furen Dai, have crossed generations and mixed media to unravel and re-invent their family legends in distinctively different ways in “Family Outing” at 555 Gallery in Boston through July 9, 2016.
In her series of composite photographs, Stories From the Kitchen Table, Astrid Reischwitz refers to both the place and manner by which family history has been passed down at the farmhouse of her youth in a small northern German village. Each piece is like an intricate quilt, anchored by an ancestral B&W photograph that Reischwitz combines with new color images that serve as an iteration of a theme. Occasionally featuring her daughter, meaningful family motifs such as needlepoint linens and flowers are used to stitch the panels together into visual odes. Narrative, palette and pattern unite Reischwitz’s fabrications in eloquent personal tributes that tie the past to the present.
Reischwitz presents her first installation piece in this series, “Spin Club Coffee Table”, set with crisp linens and fine china, as if to receive the women for their monthly social meeting. The finery is disrupted with reminders of ancestors lost: crumpled or torn family photos (no, not real ones), napkins folded into Origami-like flowers, pansies planted in and painted on the coffee cups – pansies, the annual whose days are numbered – and everywhere, dirt, symbolizing not only the soil whose riches provide the potato crop but also the family’s final resting place. The piece is elegant and earthy, visually and sculpturally capturing both the chaos and continuity of life and death.
In Gail Samuelson’s series All Dressed Up, she uses herself as the channel through which she breathes life back into elderly or deceased loved ones by dressing in the clothing and accessories they left to her. Samuelson’s quietly engaging portraits are not only a way of paying tribute to her mother, her aunt and her father, but also of acknowledging and incorporating their physical and psychological hereditary traits. In adorning herself in their garments, Samuelson’s clothing and fabric becomes a metaphor for the social glue that women have traditionally provided for their families and communities.
In a related series, Keep It For Luck, Samuelson creates poignant photographs of significant objects belonging to the same close relatives. “Silk Blouse” is a section of the wedding dress Samuelson’s mother “didn’t love because it wasn’t white or fancy.” But Samuelson was drawn to the fragility that caused it to break apart with handling, signs of wear that are potent symbols of her mother’s life. Each of the artifacts that Samuelson has chosen to immortalize are treasured clues to her own family story. There is a lovely maturity to this series, an unspoken acceptance of our family history and, ultimately, a coming to terms with ourselves.
Macaulay’s pieces acquire a depth and dimensionality that is magnified by the drop shadows in each box, an enhancing effect you really have to see in person to appreciate. With sophisticated graphics and an invigorating sense of composition and color, Macaulay’s boxes deliver a dynamic punch. But there’s also a touching backstory to each piece and Macaulay uses family correspondences, along with metaphorical elements like water and light, to nuanced emotional effect. Some of Macaulay’s traditional photographic images from earlier series are also on view at the gallery, expressing the prevalent themes of vulnerability and possibility in her work.
Video artist Furen Dai presents two short videos. In Messages Through Generations, which she performs silently with her mother, ancient Chinese rules of behavior for women are written on a clear plexiglass box by the mother sitting inside it, followed by the daughter, who traces her writing on the outside of the box, back and forth, until the box becomes opaque with writing, the mother trapped blindly inside. This cleverly composed allegory for creating alienation between generations, through the handing down of rules written by neither one, is an intriguing object lesson across cultures and eras.
Families represent our first social circle, one whose importance far outweighs our youthful years. With its mysterious power extending throughout our lives, it is no wonder so many artists mine its influences. 555 Gallery’s presentation of “Family Outing” gathers four artists who explore the ancient ideas of family in refreshing and inspiring new ways, creating the latest generation of family myths.