Melt showcases artists working in the realm of the in-between. The in-between relies on objects and sensations to unpack our understanding of home. Located somewhere between documentary and fiction, Lauren Whitacre’s images hint at the relationship between generations of women. Specifically, Whitacre explores her own relationship with her mother by means of constructed joint memories. These aim at truth, pointing to the disconnect we face as we age. Whitacre’s work is grounding through imagery that calls the viewer into presentness. Style blurs with experience, allowing memory to become a destination.
A theme in Whitacre’s work reveals home spaces intermingled with family video footage. In a collage of 35mm film, these scenes are layered alongside stills of dolls and makeup. It is the visibility of the artist’s hand in the act of layering that creates a discourse about intimacy as an action rather than just a feeling. As shadows from one space intrude on a memory captured from another space and time, these shadows become blurred and elusive. Interiors become hard to discern from exteriors and time of day escapes definition. Lauren’s physical manipulation of two photographs into one is a tool for creating a new, intimate place between generations. This process makes time not only transient but elusive and forces the viewer to question the importance of the now while the past takes on a new form of otherness that cannot be ignored. The spaces created are ambiguous and feel more fleeting rather than concrete memories.
Through Whitacre’s non-linear collage work, viewers are prompted to question our actual versus our learned experiences. As people, we are all children of other individuals. While we may have very different experiences and views from that of our parents, do we as children carry the history of our parents and
In works without figures, viewers can project themselves into spaces meant for humans. The presence is felt through the objects Whitacre chooses to merge in her images such as home scenes, clothing, makeup, etc. Lines are blurred between past and present and the generational gap takes precedent. In her use of collage, Whitacre blurrs documentary with fiction. Using historical imagery in tandem with present photographs forces what was once documentation to evolve into a narrative of the mother daughter relationship in harmony and in tension. The subjects, while related, are forced to learn their own truths and identities. The work asks viewers to join Whitacre in questioning how we navigate our perception of self and the life that happens outside of the frame as we develop our identities as daughters and as women.
Identifying an experience can come down to how time has been interrupted and processed after the fact. The photographs in this series are less reactive to important historical events yet show awareness of them. Feelings of reemergence occur in Whitacre’s images in which she shares a space with her mother’s memories and her own anxious self-regard.
The images are not only intimate but soothing and haunting as well. Recognizing a familial setting draws the viewer into the comfort of a home space while the overbearing feeling of absence prompted by missing figurative forms and looming shadows, which leaves one feeling removed from any concrete moment in time. In looking at Whitacre’s past work, I am drawn to an image which displays a homespace involving a plump couch, lampshade, and wooden table mostly in view. The photograph is interrupted by a harsh geometrical shadow that slices the image at a diagonal removing any context of the room it shares a space with. The force of the diagonal shadow places the viewer in the scene as a witness to the disruption. Soft family room furniture takes on an emptiness and distance as the rest of the scene is obliterated. It is unclear what time of day it is. The windows in the photograph project a lightness that feels at war with the heavy black. This odd juxtaposition of familiar space peeking out from the shadow suggests we are always in an act of witnessing concreteness giving way to fiction. Whitacre captures the experience of reflecting and its potent ability to retrieve emotion. The spaces are unrecognizable but of a brand that is indebted to themes of female maturation and matriarchy.
The tensions of generations, the bond of mothers and daughters, and the relinquishing of uncertainty of what this all means speak to the complexity of gaining life experience while trying to understand one’s roots. The lack of resolution in Whitacre’s work feels both daunting and appropriate. Our human nature wants resolution, but life is far messier than a single history. Through photography, Lauren pushes these boundaries to expose the gray area of becoming. We are perpetually in a state of becoming, and it is this “becoming” that evades any concreteness in time. As we experience the world around us, learn histories from our loved ones, and create new relationships with spaces and people, we form hybridized and ever-shifting identities. The luxury of recalling another’s history and forming a relationship to our own stems from the human desire to be connected, to be seen by another. Whitacre’s work realizes conversations between past and present experiences and exposes moments of transience as we choose to keep or refuse external identities as parts of ourselves.
Melt, curated by Camile Messerley, opens on May 31st at Charlotte Street’s La Esquina Gallery and runs through June 28th. This will be the last exhibition to open at the La Esquina space before its closure. This essay is the second in a series commissioned by Messerley for Melt