Assembled, new work by Christina Hollering, Lauren Ditchley and Katherine Fries
“Assembled” opens at the Harrison Center on June 3rd. Christina Hollering, Lauren Ditchley, and Katherine Fries have worked in the same space for five years; this their first collaborative show. Through the mediums of photography, print, and mixed media, they explore the ideas of collections and their connection to memory, place, object, and association—a topic close to heart for all three. “Assembled” walks “the fine edge of sentimentality and examination of what we keep and why we keep it.” Something to note: All three artists were inspired by their grandparents, both in life and in the pieces included in the show. Below, I asked them how their pieces fit into the theme of collections, and Fries talks about the merits of sentimentality:
How do you go about exploring this topic in your work?
Christina Hollering: When I first approached the subject of collections, I was interested in the psychology behind collecting and why I was drawn to certain items. As I began to examine each of my possessions and asked myself these questions, I became anxious and overwhelmed. I realized that I did not know why I compulsively collected these things or why I spent large amount of my time scouring thrift stores, flea markets and garage sales looking to acquire “that special thing.” The lack of logic in my decision-making concerned me.
I decided to adopt a minimalist lifestyle and discard any item that didn’t bring value to my life. However, I still found myself attracted to these items, so in an effort to satisfy my longing to have them, I photographed them to use as reference material. The items were then given away and translated into paper cuttings. I again asked myself how I felt about these objects in their new form, translated into paper cuttings.
The parallels between minimalism and paper cutting became apparent and the whole process ultimately became a psychological experiment in which I concluded that, as the cliché goes, less really is more. With minimalism, I found that less things to keep track of and less time shopping gave me more time to focus on the things I truly valued such as creating and spending time with loved ones. With paper cutting, material is eliminated so that all remaining shapes are intentionally selected because they add value to the place.
Lauren Ditchley: From all of the places I had lived with my parents the one constant was my grandparents’ home. These were the houses I spent my time in after school and on the weekend. My grandmother was collecting little bits and pieces of my childhood and storing them away for me.
A few years ago when I had a home of my own, she delivered two plastic bins. One was labeled “Lauren’s Baby Stuff—Keep.” They were taped closed and my garage at the time happily accommodated them. There they sat. Untouched. Unexplored.
Recently my family and I moved from that home (and the big garage housing all our stuff) to a new place without a garage. The bins just sat there taking up space. When we came up with the idea for this show I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Open the boxes, catalog the contents, and let them go.
Upon opening the first box I was halted. There she was—my red “Going to Grandma’s”—suitcase. What was inside? A collection of Pound Puppies and a taped-in label with my mother’s handwriting of “Lauren Ditchley.” Memories flooded my mind and immediately I was set on a path to visit each of the 3 homes my Grandma lived in. The places where I spent much of my free time.
I used a collection of film (120 positive film and Polaroid) and cameras (Holga, Polaroid, dSLR, and iPhone) to document these visits. I photographed the objects I found and combined them with my present experience of exploring. I explored the boxes and I took some of the pieces out and photographed them in new places. Double exposures on film and layered images on Polaroids. The combination of objects past with an environment present. Playing with the idea of how memories change with time and place. And in my reflection what they meant to me now.
The contents are personal. They were mine. Many of them I don’t remember, but some take me right back to a time and place long gone from my current life. I like to think this was a joint effort of curating a story. My grandma collected, I found. The experience has been good for me. It has helped me understand why we collect—to connect with the past.
Katherine Fries: At the center of this body of work is the relationship between people and objects, where my role is that of story-teller and preservationist. These roles blend and diverge—offering a spectrum of interaction, narrative, and cataloging.
Since I was small, I have always been aware of my relationship with the objects that have surrounded me. I contemplated their meaning, stories, and origins. As a storyteller, I grasp at any known narrative of who, what, when, where, and how. As a preservationist, I long to know context, strive to understand relevance, and assert its prominence for posterity.
With that in mind, these works share carefully selected collections of objects, images, people, and events, reflective of narrative threads based on personal experience. The collections are an accumulation of memories in that they seem random, yet are intertwined, becoming clues for values, interests, relationships, and experiences.
While I arrived a these concepts as a painter, I soon found that the incorporation and exploration of assemblage and printmaking would allow me a greater understanding and potential to explore the idea of object and its relationship to my viewer and myself. Each medium brought with its own weight, visual impact, and type/scale of object that could be employed. With this variety, I explore a sliding scale of time, degrees of sentiment, documentation versus narrative, and viewer interaction with the collections. Subsequently, my work elicits an increased awareness of objects, our relationship with them, and their potential value, evocative of a sentimental or nostalgic longing.
Is sentimentality a good thing?
Fries: I think sentimentality is a human thing. There is great debate, especially in the art world, about the use or implication of sentimentality: is it “good” or not. I am of the opinion that sentimentality and sincerity have a very real place in artistic practice and production. While being sentimental may conjure the idea of something romanticized or eliminates the harsher and very real, I have found that sentimentality brings with it a vulnerability and catalyst for conversations about where we have been, what we value, and how we see ourselves. In my artistic practice, I examine objects are kept not for function but because of their previous lives with other individuals: “This belongs to...” The most rewarding experience when exhibiting my work is when someone says “My so and so had this” or “This reminds me of….” And they go on to tell me a micro-history of something important to them. Sentimentality can be another way we tell our story.