Artist Ramekon O’Arwisters revealed a series of simple yet powerful pieces during the April 2013 Open Studios. This is an opportunity for artists to display their work, whether the medium is paint, craft, sculpture, or other visual, aural, tactile experience.
The art he presented was titled Fugitive Memories, 2013. His work deconstructs identity, or rather as I like to think of it, his work opens up identity for analysis through visual abstraction and visual art. Having an interest in genealogy I was even more lured to his latest pieces. Fugitive Memories takes old 19th century black and white photographs, known to genealogists and others as cabinet cards (see one here). He postulates personalities by covering the faces of the photos in various tchotchkes or physical markers of culture. One face was covered with a lucky rabbit’s foot. Another had a collection of decorative pins. Another had what looked like a little mask. Each seemed to represent the unknown by literally attaching upon them a hobby, or a penchant, or what looked to me like a secret life.
It was also interesting that these photos must have been discarded at some point in history, or photos of people whose identity had been lost to time. So in a way, these faces were faceless. I see these everywhere, at antique stores, estate sales, and sadly one or two unidentifiable photographs in our more obscure family albums.
As someone who by personal taste is not generally attracted to non-traditional / non-western forms of art, I couldn’t help but stare and digest these pieces. The use of crafts seemed to complement the reclaiming of these old photographs. Yet you could feel a break with traditional forms of art. How could you perceive someone from another era or culture based on how they have represented themselves? What is hidden or revealed? How do we conform or fail to fit in with our own society?