Hours of Idleness-A Photographer's Journey in St. Louis

The Memory Project

Posted in art, awareness, photography by Jason Gray on January 16, 2011

I know that you all have already seen the two paintings below, but I am still in the process of completing new companions, so they are getting shown again. This post is more about presenting my concept than it is about presenting new art. The Memory Project:

We are at a point in human history wherein it has never been easier to overindulge our memories. The constant flood of images so far inspires a mood of nostalgia that it is sometimes difficult to extrapolate our own present from culture’s storytelling of it. It is in our public profiles, Facebook, etcetera, which exist at the intersection of our own, full, nostalgic memorization and the demands of a cultural fascination with what the present should be, where our immediate past becomes the present we ourselves missed when we passed through it. Our obsession with documentation is an obvious extension of our intension to live the fullest moment possible, precipitated by the demands of cultural melodramas, which we are all familiar to. A life with a soundtrack, so to speak.

However, the further that we zoom out from the people we are immediately affiliated with, the less interested we are in scrutinizing the pictorial details of those persons’ public profiles (that is, until we zoom out far enough that the people we see entice our sense of exoticism). In other words, the pictures that other people paste up for all the world to see, which are equal in significance to the ones we ourselves paste, lose their value for us the more unfamiliar they become. Once the people become fully unfamiliar to us, we have no choice but to evaluate the pictures that they populate based upon their compositional merit or design, and generally speaking, most of the pictures resulting from people’s desire to capture their fleeting present are universally uninteresting, esthetically.

For ourselves, it is equally as difficult to recognize the banality of our own imagery as it is to harmonize our picture-taking with the expectations of photographic art. This is partially do to subject and partially due to conditions present at the time. Not to mention, we are generally more interested in proving that we, or our activities, are interesting then we are in taking interesting pictures. Nonetheless, even when we succeed in taking an “artistic” picture, the people who we intend to share the picture with have trouble seeing both the subject (ourselves) and the esthetics of the photograph; one or the other must take precedence.

It is this realization which led me to the Memory Project. I am interested in ways of making my own imagery unfamiliar even to me, so that I can look at it from the dual perspectives of active and passive participant. In order to achieve this, I have applied a series of steps in post-processing to photographs of important moments from the many years that my wife and I have been together. These steps reduce the images to abstract compositions, some of which retain a vague sense of the former photographs and some of which do not. As a painter, I am compelled to develop a new attachment to the images through the act of painting them, which reduces the capacity of the memory of the actual events. The new paintings share something with the original images (which will be shown alongside them), yet are also entirely their own. The result is a harmonization of documentation and artful presentation, which deepens the emotional/intellectual response of the viewer. Philip Guston once speculated upon “ the impossibility of living entirely in the moment without the tug of memory”. My hope is to simultaneously resolve that problem through my process, while supporting it in my presentation

See examples after the jump–>

The paintings are above their reference photos.


“A Kiss”; oil on canvas


“Honeymoon 3”; oil on canvas

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