They say we die two deaths: the first is our actual passing; the second is when the last person who remembers us takes their final breath. Family photographs, vessels of memory, are integral to extending this quasi-life. They show a mother, a child, a past self, full of in-jokes and the mundane meaningful only to a select few. But divorced from their origins, these emotion-ridden images become unknowable and lost in translation, for they are intrinsically entwined with the intimate memories of someone. These images are timeless because photography can forever capture a moment—so much so that they have outlived their families and purpose, becoming orphans. As we drown in an overwhelming visual culture, what place does an old family photo have outside their original home?
In Forgetting is so long, I collect abandoned, anonymous family photographs, enlarge them past their familiar size, and paint over them. I paint to disrupt, to reimagine, to re-enliven these individuals until I can either no longer recognize them or their presence is too piercing to continue. Family photographs are sacred relics to their loved ones, but unmoored the images become hauntingly absent. Taussig states that defacing these types of objects forces a “shock into being;” suddenly we perceive them as present, revered, and piercing. By mixing painting with photography, I lengthen Roland Barthes’ “moment of death” (the photograph) into some semblance of purgatory. Not alive but not quite dead, each person’s newly imagined and altered portrait straddles the lines between memory, identity, and death. They are monuments to the forgotten.
Daisy Patton received an Honors BFA in Studio Arts from the University of Oklahoma with minors in History and Art History and her MFA from The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston/Tufts University. Patton received the Montague Travel Grant for research in Dresden, Germany, and has completed numerous artist residencies at Minerva Projects, Anderson Ranch, the Studios at MASS MoCA, RedLine Denver, and Eastside International in Los Angeles. Her works have been exhibited widely throughout the US and 2018 marked her first museum exhibition at CU Art Museum at the University of Colorado.