Artist's Statement: Tara Polanski

I investigate the way memory functions, defining memory loosely to include events that we do not experience firsthand and people who we have never met but who are familiar to us. My work coalesces around photographic source imagery found in my family’s old photo albums which catalogue happy occasions—birthdays, weddings, vacations. The images I use speak of a past era through hairstyles and clothing. Viewers, however, can glean precious little about the people pictured and the complexity of the relationships represented. I am interested in the way nostalgia may encourage us to forget that the past included tragedy and struggle in addition to joy, and I raise questions about how we see, remember, and imagine. I am interested in the way portraits, which are intended to give insight, often render their subjects more anonymous and generic by idealizing them.

 

Through fragmentation, erasure, and redrawing I am considering what remains when people are absent. In some works I focus on the tangible elements and physical spaces that withstand time, as people cannot. In others I examine the ways memories emerge. I insert myself into photographs taken before I was born by reworking, recreating and altering the images I find in pages of albums. I strive to make visible an image that is truer than the one I found.

 

Formally, I experiment with thick and thin, rough and smooth, solidity and fragility. Using ceramics, photographs and computer technology, I produce images that vacillate between clarity and blurriness. I encourage the viewer to ask questions that can never be answered definitively.