Wounded Home, 2013
Wounded Home is a collaborative installation that takes its inspiration from a Victorian era parlor ravaged by the losses and upheaval of Civil War America. Combining the vocabularies of an iconic household interior, including Victorian customs of mourning and grief, with text and images gathered from the collection of Civil War resources at the Lloyd Library and Museum in Cincinnati, OH. Each artist has created a facet of a poignant and disturbing room-within-a-room in the Lloyd’s gallery space. Artists include: Mary Jo Bole, Deborah Brod, Jenny Fine, Saad Ghosn, Celene Hawkins, Kate Kern, and Alice Pixley Young.
Her lips are painted red; yellow face turning away from the camera. Her eyes are closed, still, the right lid sags open from the weight of the infected tissue, spreading down cheek and neck. Her hair is cut short, like a boy’s, likely a consequence, but little girls are meant to have long hair. A scarf is proudly tied in a large puffy bow around her neck. Her dress is clean and dotted with horseshoes.
There was something about this photograph that wounded me, perhaps it was the color or the bulging lid, but I think it was the combination of many things, tenderness accompanied by the unsettling. And in looking at it, I thought of the things not pictured: the mother, tying the bow with skillful hands, meticulously pressing the horseshoe dress, prettying her child to sit for G.H. Fox’s camera, which despite her efforts would become a lasting witness of her child’s imperfection. This photograph stayed with me, but mostly as a reminder of the mother not pictured. While thinking about this image through the lens of the Civil War, I thought of Gettysburg, the battlefield dotted with houses filled with women peeking through the windows of their wounded homes, glass barriers through which they witnessed the trauma that upended all lives whether by death or the severely altered body.
From the beginning stages of my participation in Wounded Home, I knew I was interested in making contemporary portraits that would resemble 19th century photographic solar enlargements. Inspired by early illustrations of skin diseases in Dr. Walker’s scrapbooks and images found in The Photographic Atlas of Skin Diseases, I became interested in incorporating into these portraits hand-rendered wounds and diseases associated with the Civil War. Inclined to engage in a similar perspective of loss suffered by these families, I chose to photograph my family, friends and neighbors. Unlike G.H. Fox’s images, the sitters in my portraits do not bear wounds in life. Instead, my images depict imagined marks that in the intimacy of solitary studio nights, I became a witness inside the space of this Wounded Home. Drawing with graphite and painting over with watercolors, I hand altered the final images.