n a o m i
s h e r s t y
A R T I S T S T A T E M E N T
Within oppositional theories addressing the complex relationship between photography and memory, George Eastman writes, “Photography enables the fortunate possessor to go back…to scenes which would otherwise fade from memory and be lost.”1 Whereas Roland Barthes argues, “Not only is the photograph never, in essence, a memory…but it actually blocks memory, quickly becomes a counter-memory.”2 My desire to research and situate myself within this conflict, along with lingering memories from my past, has produced an affinity for photography as a medium that is rooted in the powerful but fictional role photographs have in constructing characters and events that are both real and unreal. Through the use of metaphor, theatricality and vernacular practices, I chart and map my experience to explore desire as well as the construction of identity and its relation to geography, the home, and social environments.
The allure and danger of southern environments, the intensity of lower-class, male-dominated spaces, and the ramifications of being an outsider to family and local culture are intrinsic to my history and provide fruitful visual metaphors for recursive issues surrounding loss, neglect, sexuality, and survival. I am intimately aware of how these issues affect a woman’s understanding, definition, and perception of self. It is in this respect that my work explores control, including the power structures found in intimate and familial relationships, distortions of the female self-image, and the boundaries and intersections that exist between acceptance, love, and desire.
In my current work, I am exploring that which thrives, and that which goes unnoticed in the southern environment in which I was reared. By doing so, I both create and deconstruct a paradox. Motivating this work are questions such as: What is nurtured? What is neglected? What is safe? What is dangerous? What is lost? What remains?
I am compelled to engage the space between presence and absence, fact and fiction, and memory and “anti-memory,” to remember, to forget, and to recreate.
1. Batchen, Geoffrey. “Carnal Knowledge: Photography, Memory and Touch,” Objects the Trigger Memory Retrieval, Art Gallery of New South Wales, AU, 2000.
2. Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, New York; Hill and Wang, 1981.