FA·MIL·IAR: An Installation by Paula Portinga Booth
January 18 – May 16, 2016
Roger W. Rogers Gallery
Paula Portinga Booth’s installation, titled “Fa·mil·iar” is comprised of a grouping of several collaged and painted elements, each about 6” x 6” in size. Like the pixels that form a digital image, these elements give shape to a visual narrative of Booth’s own family. Her installation stitches together living and deceased relatives across generations and through time into a quilted and painted genealogy that explores the themes of memory, nostalgia and identity. The individual elements, composed as they are of family photographs, images from treasured children’s books, and fabric remnants left by a beloved, deceased grandmother, record the dull ache of memory and loss together with the rich warmth of belonging. It reminds us of the role of family in shaping who we are (we can see the seeds from which Booth’s own artistic practice grew in her grandmother’s quilting and her grandfather’s photography), and also as the safe and nourishing environment where our notions of security, comfort, belonging and confidence are first shaped.
While the work is quintessentially American in its form and context, it is evocative of the practice of ancestor veneration common in many cultures even today. It replicates the respect for tradition, the practice of tracing our identity through those of previous generations, and the belief that our ancestors, even in death, exert a guiding influence on our lives. It makes it clear that American culture, far from being divorced from its own pre-industrial roots, still shapes us through our membership of the kinship group we call family.
While the work is deeply personal and individual, it also focuses on the way our relation to family expresses broader cultural dynamics that are far more universal. The installation functions as a matrilineal archeology of memory that uses the quilt as a symbol of warmth and security, but also reminds us of the traditional role of women as familial keepers of memory and the aestheticians of the domestic environment.
Booth describes her work as follows,” Presently, I am in the process of investigating my own self-identity in relation to my memories of family and childhood. As a daughter, granddaughter, sister and mother, I explore ideas of nostalgia, longing and memory (personal and generational) as well as perception: perception of real events and how that perception changes and fluctuates with the infusion of new ideas and experiences. The act of remembering becomes a defining act in both life and art.” She echoes Einstein’s assertion that, “memory is deceptive because it is colored by today’s events.”
Paula Portinga Booth is a graduate of Willamette University (Art History, 1993). She completed her MFA in Studio Art at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2005, and currently teaches in the Department of Art at Western Oregon University, where she is the director of the Cannon Gallery.
Curator, Roger W. Rogers Gallery