Altered Ancestors

LHensley-TragicWe begin with fine photographic portraiture, the late 19th century cabinet card, a visual record of the stiff Victorian era.

Oh these people! How can I get inside and find out who they really are? How can I tell their stories? How frustrating… little handsome jewel boxes with Pandora’s emotional treasures inside.

Like making short scenes from a play, I added characters from Leonardo’s sketchbooks, layered over the portrait sitters to speak to the emotional undertow, the subtext. Adding words clarifies the scene, because I’d actually like you to know what the piece is about. And if you like ambiguity, don’t worry, there is plenty of ambiguity left for you too.

Materials used:

• Late 19th c Cabinet cards: The cabinet card was the style of photograph which was universally adopted for photographic portraiture in 1870. It consisted of a thin photograph that was generally mounted on cards measuring 4¼ by 6½ inches. Wikipedia

• Images from Leonardo da Vinci’s sketchbooks: Collage lends itself to exploring layer of meaning. Images that come from two different cultures, time periods.

• Words from a large print book

• Vintage file tabs and papers, handwritten letters/invoices/attic finds.


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