single image representing/recreating early memory
This was a cool intro assignment. A nice substitute for the usual get-to-know-you stuff in the beginning of a course, and a cool way to explore visual communication.
The assignment outline was to make a single image that represents or recreates a childhood memory from before we were 12, and to include ourselves or a representation of ourselves in the image in some way.
My memory is an early and fairly traumatic one: I lived in Honduras from ages 5-9, so when I was maybe 7 we took a little vacation at a beach house somewhere on the coast (I’m not sure where we were). Night snorkeling, sea kayaking, and general goofing around were wonderful in that setting. And boating out to mini-islands and finding old broken wooden canoes and paddles made it all the more piratey.
The memory for this image, though, is much less wonderful:
I was maybe 7 years old, and I was in the house one day reading The Lion King. I got to the part in the gorge where the dad gets trampled, and it became suddenly vividly clear to me that I was going to die someday. No sugar-coating, no delayed realization, just instant ‘oh-shit’ as a little kid in the middle of this wonderful book.
This image is how that concept came to me at the time: a kind of disembodied, or rather unconnected, porthole through which we see the world as we go through life, and eventually, someday, it’s just going to close, and that will be it. The end.
It was shocking, and terrifying, and needles to say the rest of the day was pretty rocky. And since then it’s been a recurring image, my image of my perception of death whenever it happens.
I remember the memory as it happened, with me on my knees in the room, reading the book, a maid somewhere, the general look and feel of the room, I remember it being wood floors, and my family was elsewhere in the house. But when I think back on the memory, the realization, this is what comes to mind, and it seems to communicate the idea very effectively.
Technically, formally, I wanted the piece to fill your whole field of vision, so when you’re the right distance from it, it’s all you see. Because that is all we see in life – what we see as we go through life – and the rest are tools to communicate what’s happening. The porthole is essentially our field of vision, the ‘shutter’ or closing tunnel is the ending of my life, and a closeup shows some streaks I was able to just rub into the paper it was printed on. Underneath is a pretty typical image of life, just a short of nature that’s specific enough to be clear but unspecific in terms of location or what’s exactly going on in the frame that it just communicates the idea of life and not a place or time.
I wanted some dimensionality in the piece, so after mocking it up in Photoshop I decided to sort of collage it together, but printing it out, cutting up the three layers, and layering them on top of each other (so the forest image glued down, and plain paper glued around it to make a solid layer at its level, and the same done for the next two layers on top, so it would be in relief, but not extremely so. I didn’t want there so be so much craft that it detracted from the message of the piece. I ended up siding with just cutting out the life image, since the porthole and the shutter could be on the same level, but more honestly, it was just too hard to cut out the porthole perfectly. That long round curve was a delicate thing to cut.
Printed on plain matte paper, the outside of the porthole was originally white, but that didn’t fit the piece in really any way, and I played with the idea of cutting it out, but again, I didn’t want to mess up the long curve. I ended up just filling it in with a jumbo Sharpie, and it gave it this awesome velvety effect when it’s mounted on the wall. Everybody in class thought it was real velvet until they looked closer. Even the teacher couldn’t tell . Lastly, I tried to have some white milkiness coming in from the edges of the nature image, as if you go slightly blind as you die, trying to mimic those white-out eyes of blind dogs or people. It kind of worked, but to enhance the idea I scratched away those areas with a fine X-acto knife.
This got a good response, and the rest of the class did good work too, I’m looking forward to the stuff we all contribute.