In Valerie Hammond’s series of wax drawings, protection is two-fold: the artist (previously) encases dried flowers and ferns in a thin layer of wax, preserving their fragile tissues long after they’ve been plucked from the ground. In outlining a pair of hands, she also secures a memory, or rather, “the essence of a gesture and the fleeting moment in which it was made.”
Centered on limbs lying flat on Japanese paper, the ongoing series dates back to the 1990s, when Hammond made the first tracing “partly in response to the death of a dear friend, whose beautiful hands I often found myself remembering.” She continued by working with family and friends, mainly women and children, to delineate their wrists, palms, and fingers. Today, the series features dozens of works that are comprised of either hands tethered to the dried botanics, which sprout outward in wispy tendrils, or others overlayed with thread and glass beads.
Although the delicate pieces began as a simple trace, Hammond shares that she soon began to overlay the original drawing with pressed florals, creating encaustic assemblages that “echoed the body’s bones, veins, and circulatory systems.” She continued to experiment with the series by introducing various techniques, including printmaking, Xerox transfers, and finally Photoshop inversions, that distorted the original rendering and shifted her practice. Hammond explains:
The works suddenly inhabited a space I had been searching for, straddling the indefinable boundary between presence and absence, material and immaterial, consciousness and the unconscious. For me, they became emblematic not only of the people whose hands I had traced but of my own evolving artistic process—testimony to the passing of time and the quiet dissolution of memory.
Hammond’s work recently was included in a group show at Leila Heller Gallery. Her practice spans multiple mediums including collage, drawing, and sculpture, all of which you can explore on her site and Instagram.
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We’re not crying, you’re crying. Music’s ability to improve the mood and boost cognitive skills in people with dementia has long been documented. “Music is no luxury to them, but a necessity,” wrote neurologist Oliver Sacks in his 2008 book Musicophilia. “It can have a power beyond anything else to restore them to themselves, and to others, at least for a while.” Such is the case in this video of former NYC ballet dancer Marta C. González who was given the opportunity to listen to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, a piece of music we can assume she performed numerous times as shown in the interspersed archival clips from the 1960s. The music seems to awaken the choreography stored deep in her brain as she begins to spontaneously perform from her wheelchair. González founded and directed her own dance ensemble called Rosamunda.
The video was recorded last year in Valencia, Spain and published by Música para Despertar (Awakening Music), a non-profit organization that brings music to patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dimensia to help raise awareness of its therapeutic impact. (via Kottke)
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Jamestown, New York-based photographer Catherine Panebianco compresses the space between family memories and her life at present through her series, No Memory Is Ever Alone. The moving collection features vast landscapes and unoccupied rooms with Panebianco’s continued intervention: in each shot, she holds up a photographic slide of her family in a similar location, juxtaposing the decades-old visual against a current-day backdrop.
Beyond capturing loved ones in moments of joy—many feature her mother, who died in recent years—the film reminds Panebianco of a holiday tradition. Her dad “used to bring out a box of slides that he photographed in his late teens and early 20s every Christmas and made us view them on an old projector on our living room wall telling the same stories every year,” she writes in a statement. “It was a consistent memory from a childhood where we moved a lot and I never felt like I had a steady “place” to live and create memories.” Imbued with nostalgia, the new images bind the threads of family memory and tradition with the histories of her parent’s lives and now, her own.
Panebianco chose to recreate each shot manually rather than using Photoshop to place one on top of the other. “Part of the process that was necessary for me was to find the right location and feel my dad’s slides united with how I live today—a place within a place, a memory within a memory,” she says.
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Sydney-based artist Mechelle Bounpraseuth crafts life-sized ceramics that explore her identity as a first-generation daughter of Laotian refugees. Her small and glossy ceramic artwork, which ranges from drink cans to widely known sauces, explores her connection with her past and how branded ingredients are rooted in culinary culture and rituals.
Bounpraseuth was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, and despite many fond memories of her family and childhood, her religion discouraged her from pursuing artistic pursuits. She left the religion in her 20s and got married, realizing that her dream of becoming an artist was possible and that she didn’t have to succumb to the person her religion had wanted her to be.
Her creativity initially began from drawing and creating zines, before Bounpraseuth enrolled in a ceramics course and began crafting functional objects. Noticing her talent for the medium, her tutor encouraged her to pursue work with more artistic flair. She began to expand on her drawings of household objects by recreating them in clay and glossy bright colors.
One of Bounpraseuth’s ceramics is a Heinz Ketchup bottle, a condiment found in many family fridges and cupboards throughout the world. For the artist, the sauce represents the memory of her family eating pho together, a ritual in which they would come together and make the recipe from scratch with a dollop of ketchup. These sculptural forms are meaningful symbols to Bounpraseuth as the pho was a labor of love and would take her family all day to make.
Through the creation of these domestic objects from her past, Bounpraseuth uses her artwork as a way to reflect upon and process her childhood memories and as a way to navigate her old and new identities. These pieces illustrate how some values remain passed down from generations, like Bounparseuth’s reference to her family’s shared domesticity, while some core aspects of family, like religion, are not always.
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Caledonia Curry, aka Swoon, is known for her street art utilizing paper that’s pasted onto building walls, but the Brooklyn-based artist has made a recent pivot that transfers her mythical style to stop-motion animations. Part of her solo exhibition Cicada, Curry’s short film “Sofia and Storm” is centered on a human-arachnid hybrid. After emerging from a dense mass, the gold-faced feminine figure opens up her chest cavity to reveal dark, hanging matter that eventually is absorbed.
Similar to her previous projects, the fantastical animation is linked directly to Curry’s family history and to her parents, who struggled with addiction and substance abuse. “Swoon’s stop-motion films emphasize the body’s ability to serve as a vessel carrying memories and traditions. A house, a ship, and human figures split and open to liberate a cast of imaginative and mythological creatures trapped inside,” a statement said.
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Memories often are described colloquially as being woven into our brains, threaded through our minds in ways that affect our every day. For Cécile Davidovici, though, memories and lengthy stitches hold a different relationship, and weaving her thread paintings is a process of remembering rather than the state of the memory itself. The Paris-based artist sources the content of her series <<1988 from home videos taken by her parents throughout her upbringing. “When my mother died, I started watching VHS tapes from my childhood,” she tells 60 Second Docs about her current projects. “I use primarily cotton and linen. I find it evokes the same warmth I feel when I think of my childhood.”
Despite having a background film, Davidovici said in a statement that she was drawn to textile arts after her mother’s death because it was tangible and allowed her to “anchor herself in the moment.” Although her preferred medium has changed, the artist said “the stories of innocence and illusions remained, now tinted with irrepressible nostalgia, and with a desire to capture memories and to immortalize past moments.” Some of Davidovici’s dense embroideries, which can take as many as five weeks to complete, are available in her shop. Find more of her reflective work on Instagram. (via Colossal Submissions)
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Editor's Picks: History
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.