Memories and nostalgia: reframing memories through art works

Abstract
This work will present a summary of the main concepts behind my own artwork, a brief reflection on who has inspired my ideas for my own artwork and why, an explanation of the concepts for my display and a reflection on the messages behind my own artwork. The work ends with an evaluation of how well I think my ideas have worked.
Introduction

In terms of the main concept behind my own artwork, I have focused on the 25 years of my marriage (my silver jubilee). My initial ideas regarding my marriage were that we create memories when we have a relationship with somebody. These memories can be embodied in physical objects – such as worn out papers or empty perfume bottles or special jewelry – or can be more ephemeral, existing as a memory of a particular moment. All of these memories are important, however, in terms of enabling us to recreate our memory of a particular time, event, person or relationship. Based on this and from my previous subject, which is related to memories and nostalgia, I wanted to explore how we can, as individuals, reformulate our old memories with a beautiful artistic style for the memories to be displayed as part of our every day experiences.
My 25th wedding anniversary – the silver wedding anniversary – was, for me, a very special time that led me to reflect on my life. I was inspired, through these reflections, to create a complete jigsaw puzzle containing 25 pieces, each of which would contain one important event from each year of our marriage and some writing (on the back of the jigsaw piece) about our marriage. I was struck with the idea of creating a jigsaw as I realized that relationships are like jigsaws and memories are like jigsaw pieces: a marriage is made of many different events (pieces), some of which are good, some of which are bad, and it is only when all of these memories are reflected on as a whole (the completed jigsaw puzzle) that the success of the marriage can be evaluated as a whole.
In terms of what I wanted to articulate to my audience and why, the main purpose of choosing this puzzle form is to deliver the meaning of the family bonding and the fact that every part of the jigsaw – as with every part of a family – is complementary to the group as a whole. It is only when the jigsaw (family) is together that one can see the whole picture (i.e., only when a family is together and the family history is understood can an individual understand their roots and, from this, begin to understand themselves and their place in the world). Like a jigsaw, an individual – or a relationship such as a marriage – is composed of many different pieces, some of which are unpleasant, some of which are joyful or sad or hard work, but what is clear is that all of these pieces make a whole and without one of the pieces, there would be no whole.
In terms of how my exhibition will reflect my thinking and the concepts behind my work, I believe there is a difference between truth and fiction, which individuals maintain even in their private lives. Sometimes individuals can mis-remember certain aspects of their lives – especially painful or uncomfortable aspects of their lives – as a safety mechanism, to prevent them from being repeatedly hurt by the events that occurred. As a result, the truth becomes blurred with time, with memories reflecting the fiction that the individual has created as a result of their desire to hide the (uncomfortable) truth. Additionally, events that are remembered very fondly can often become exaggerated in their joyfulness and happiness, this again leading to a bending of the truth, creating nostalgia for these happy events in the mind of the individual. My work explores, through reflections on my 25 years of marriage, these ideas, exploring how individuals remember their personal histories, through stories and memorabilia that retain memories for them.
This is not a new concept, however, as many artists are interested in the issue of memories and their truths. Grayson Perry’s work, for example, uses photographs that are meant to represent truthful events and moments of truth, but these photographs are juxtaposed with very sentimental aspects of memory (Klein, 2013; Perry, 2011). His tapestries, such as the 2012 The Adoration of the Cage Fighters (available for viewing at http://www.artnet.com/artwork/426208267/759/grayson-perry-the-adoration-of-the-cage-fighters.html), show complex images that presumably invoke certain memories for the artist, including images of paintings in a gallery, images of a private house, images of a mother and child and a group of friends, plus some central. The images are all connected with a pink line, presumably a reference to the idea that memories, although disparate, are connected and connect together to form one’s own personal life history (Perry and Jones, 2007).
Other tapestries of his, such as the Annunciation of the Virgin Deal (available for viewing at http://www.artnet.com/artwork/426208310/759/grayson-perry-the-annunciation-of-the-virgin-deal.html) show simple household scenes, this one showing several scenes from presumably one house, with several family members being shown engaged in various homely activities, including reading a newspaper, standing in the kitchen, cuddling a baby on the settee and standing at a central dining table that is adorned with all the frills of a normal British home. This tapestry, as with many of Perry’s other tapestries, is autobiographical, the artist has used his memories to recreate a reproduction of a religiously-themed Renaissance work of art (this time the Annunciation) to dwell on the idea of memory and nostalgia. His work is complex and multi-layered, just like memories. Details are of extreme importance in his work, as it is the details that memory dwells on to create nostalgia about a particular event or occurrence in one’s past life.
Similarly, in the work of Natasha Kerr, images – usually from photographs – are used to recreate a particular feeling or memory in the work as a whole (Davies, 1996). Her body of work evokes, in its resemblance to, Victorian scrapbooks. Her 2010 work Bembow Bees (available for viewing at http://www.olympia-art-antiques.com/node/695), for example, is stunning, visually captivating, using hexagons to generate visual interest, with the photograph taking central place in the piece, drawing the eye in and creating curiosity in the viewer as to what the significance of the photo – and more particularly the people in the photo – is to the artist. The soft colours used in the work – with the artist choosing this soft colour palette across most of her work – encourages a sense of calm and reflection in the viewer, inviting the viewer, through the nostalgia her work invokes, to reflect on their own memories and to become a little nostalgic about their own life.
As Kerr’s biography states on her website, her particular form of art making was stimulated by a bag of old family photographs her mother gave her that stimulated her to think about her own – unknown – family history. She then began experimenting with using old photographs to create art pieces, this leading to the creation of her installation There are things that you don’t need to know in a Victorian terrace house in Battersea, London. This installation piece included various media – paintings, sounds, smells and objects placed museum-like in the house. As with all of Kerr’s work, there is ambiguity surrounding the past, with stories not being fully revealed and mysteries and problems being hinted at subtly in her art works. This is akin to the way individuals can feel about their own past or their own family history: sometimes we do not know the truth or we try to hide the truth, especially when the truth is uncomfortable. It is these ‘hidden histories’ that fascinate Kerr and captivate viewers of her artwork: the unknown becomes poignant in Kerr’s work, captivating viewers and, as has been stated, inviting viewers on a perhaps uncomfortable journey to unknown or hidden corners of their own life histories or their own family histories.
Concepts for display
In terms of what I will do and how I will do it, the following shows a series of steps and methods for producing the work I plan to display:
I will form the external mold and its details according to the relative event via the illustrator program.
I’ll use the Photoshop to work on the images that will be included in the pieces. During this process, I intend to change the colours present in the images to represent my feelings about the images chosen. I chose a simple three colour palette: dark for sadness and pain; grey for ambiguous memories; and pink for joy and happiness.
Adding symbols evidencing events, for example, national flags to symbolize travel; club insignia to symbolize our involvement with such clubs; broken hearts to symbolize deaths; and an Olympic torch, to represent my son carrying the Olympic torch last year.
Using printing to print the work on several types of fabrics such as Chiffon, silk, and papers
Using the sewing for some pieces related to the presentation.
Using laser to cut the puzzle with paperboard as well as fabrics.
Gluing the images on the puzzle’s pieces and writing on the second face (to comment on the events with my sons and my husband, every one of them will express his feelings on his own piece)
Regarding the devices I intend to use to make aspects of my work more accessible to others, I have thought of several possible mechanisms that could be used to make the work more easily viewable and more accessible for viewers:
I will hang the work from the ceiling in the center of the exhibition so that the audiences can see the images on one side of the pieces and the writing in the other side
I will develop another complete template (a special memories) to be displayed on the presentation table to allow audiences to participate actively in the installation and to ensure their effective participation.
I intend to make the art piece interactive by allowing every visitor to take two pieces of the puzzles after the installation, in the form of a heart to reserve it for him.
I will develop special cards for the audiences write their comments on the presentation. I will keep these as memories for myself.
I will arrange accompanying and important things to attract the audience like buying an old table for presentation and manufacturing the old box for the special pieces of audiences, a pen and an old inkwell.
In terms of the message behind my work, I hope that my work encourages visitors to think about their own special relationships, first and foremost, and to reflect on their own lives: its ups and downs, its joys and sadness and its highs and lows. Life is a many splendored thing, with many twists and turns: if life teaches us anything, it’s that we should be grateful for what we have and we should savor every moment. We can live life as if we had been granted an eternal lifetime or we can live life as it is: limited and precious. I mainly hope that my artwork will inspire people to feel they should live more fully.
Conclusion
In terms of an evaluation of how well I think my ideas have worked, I am proud of my idea for my artwork and feel that it worked really well as an installation piece. I think my final jigsaw was visually stimulating, interesting, and I am looking forward to my visitors finding it very interesting. In addition, I hope that I can help audiences to reframe their memories using different techniques and materials. I love the idea of making a piece of art about my life, and about my marriage: it is something that I will have on display in my home. Better than photographs in albums or scrapbooks, I can display this art piece and see the 25 years of my marriage every day. I will look at it and it will make me happy for many years to come.
References
Davies, F. (1996). Natasha Kerr. Aquarium.
Klein, J. (2013). Grayson Perry. Penguin.
Perry, G. (2011). Grayson Perry: the tomb of the unknown craftsman. Penguin.
Perry, G. and Jones, W. (2007). Grayson Perry: portrait of the artist as a young girl. Penguin.

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