The Feeling is Mutual at Open House explored ideas of intimacy within our home-based relationships through various forms of new media. Photographs and video were scattered around the unfinished walls that reference the underlying structure of our understanding of a home. Typically, a home could be defined in two ways: by the space itself, or by the relationships that manifest between humans inside these spaces. Our ease in familiar spaces is an acknowledgement that they have been experienced before; whether by actual occupation or the feelings they engender.
Walking through the front door, one immediately encountered Sarah Stracke’s voyeuristic black and white portraits depicting the life of an aged woman. These images celebrated her beauty and the familiarity of the unknown woman in “Tending to Chores.” We don’t know who she is or where she is going, but it is easy to feel as though she has been known for years. This closeness occurs through her powerful and gentle look into the camera that also embodies the typical grandmother aesthetic of schlepping many bags at one time, and always bringing random objects just in case someone needs them. It’s lack of specificity in location transported me to my grandmother’s house in Wisconsin. Even though the subject looks almost nothing like my own grandmother, the qualities of a caring older woman embodied in the photograph align with those of my own experience.
“A Portrait of my Grandmother” depicted the same woman in a bathroom setting, typical of something you would see in an elderly person’s home, with it’s wood cabinets behind the toilet and various knick-knacks.’ One also becomes aware of her gaze reflected in the mirror as her back is turned away from the lens. Wrapping her hair in a towel, drying it after washing in the sink, we are offered a small glimpse into what her life is like as an older woman, through the objects found around her sink.
Specific moments of existential anxiety within a relationship between a father and a son were documented by Troy Colby through photographs from his series, “This will pass. I promise you.” Colby uses the camera to capture moments of intimate inner looking within his son’s life as he ages. The sense of anxiety felt within these photographs stray from most of the content that is directly depicted within them. The melancholic tone speaks to his concerns he has for his son’s future. In contrast to Stracke’s grandmother portraits, these photographs convey a similar, gentle feeling while putting viewers in the artist’s point of view as the father. There was a sense of worry the artist had in this image towards how his son’s life will develop. Through these depictions Colby provides us a glimpse of what it’s like to experience the world through his son.
Lilly McElroy’s performance, “Show Me That You Love Me,” is a piece in which she asked her mother to take pictures of the reasons why she loves her. Using a Kodak Funsaver camera, which referenced the camera used by Lilly in her adolescence, her mother photographed things within her own space that embodied these specific reasons. Capturing things like the bathroom sink in Lilly’s childhood house and old childhood drawings, Lilly’s past is revealed through the lens of her mom, from a viewpoint that can only be obtained through understanding their relationship. Lilly then proceeded to tell the stories behind the objects in the images, defining the subjects and explaining their significance to us. Using the format of a presentation alongside a compiled slideshow showcasing the media and their captions, Lilly delivers a 30-minute lecture on the reasons she believes her mother loves her. Providing her audience with short anecdotes, she used photography as a gateway between us and the intimate relationship she shares with her mom.
The way time impacts relationships is clear in Graham Carroll’s video, “The Memory Unlimited” Carroll’s video explores the relationship of a friend-of-a-family figure, set up on a small, old tube television in the back corner of the space. The e-video felt as if we were getting a close look at a couple of old friends and how their friendship first started to unfold. This work had a relationship to the question of time which was also addressed in the Tonia Hughes photograph, “Joyce and Her Clocks” We see a woman sitting on a bedroom floor, surrounded by nine wooden antique clocks placed around her. This print explores our relationship to time itself, as the woman within the photograph and her dog laying on the couch have their heads down in thought. She looks as if she’s trying to ignore the clocks that are stationed around her in a broken circle. She is passive, allowing time to consume her. In conversations centered around family, time is important.
The friends I have made while in Kansas City have quickly filled the void of not being physically close to my own family. This term of familial comfort can be applied to anyone who shows you unconditional love, no matter what the circumstances are. Family is about withholding a level of intimacy with the persons involved. We experience varying levels of intimacy, and the level of comfort shifts between people depending on the relationships in between. When walking through the space, the closeness of the work made me feel like I was a part of a third family. Shared experience is what invites people to foster these long-lasting, intimate relationships. I could feel what the subjects felt within these photographs, making me empathize with them the same way I could in a moment of intimacy between me and my family, as the feeling is mutual.
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