Memory is the ability to recall information. Items many of us keep on instant recall, such as a password, a bank account number, or a person’s name, are hard facts. They are either remembered correctly or they’re not. Then there are other memories, ones that are more elusive and imbued with feelings. A first kiss, the first time visiting a new city, a birth or a death, these types of memories are often mutated by emotion. Recollections can be shortened, elongated, or remembered out of sequence. Sometimes our wants and wishes are substituted for reality in a memory, other times memories seem to disappear completely.
This body of work concentrates on memories of a place – Philadelphia. The images of buildings in this work are all based on actual structures from different neighborhoods all over the city, but here they are jumbled and rearranged through the filter of memory and distance. The first stage of this work, is cut paper. Each piece is cut out of a single sheet of paper by hand with a knife.
While I often find the design phase of the work arduous, the process of cutting paper is meditative and cathartic for me. In the second phase of the work the cut outs were used as a negative image to create a Cyanotype, a photographic printing process most often used between the late 1800’s and early 1970’s by architects and engineers to make blueprints for building. Where memories are mutable, shifting with time, blueprints are instructions for the correct way to build something. The printing process creates a white line on a blue background. For architects this meant using a sheet of thin paper and India ink to trace a drawing and create a negative image. In this series, each sheet of watercolor paper was hand painted with light sensitive chemicals, the paper cutout placed on top and the piece was exposed to light.
These images allow the city to take on a new physical form and become a semblance of Philadelphia. A view of the city that is intangible, but through these cut outs and blueprints, has a distinct history.
You can see more of Gail’s work by visiting her website… www.gailcunningham.com