Found objects evoke memories
Posted Sept. 29, 2006
Rhiannon Mim

Christina Carter, a journalism major, studies the print “Restoring Memory #7,” a piece from the installation “Restoring Memory” by photographer Jason DeMarte. The Irene Carlson Gallery of Photography in Miller Hall features a collection of 16 prints that were completed during DeMarte’s three-year trip to teach photography at a women’s university in the Middle East.

Len Ly
Staff Writer
Living in the moment often buries instances of the past.

For photographer Jason DeMarte, these lost memories were resurrected in found items.

A collection of 16 traditional black and white prints that were created from assemblages of ordinary objects discovered during a personal journey, “Restoring Memory” by DeMarte is on display at the Irene Carlson Gallery of Photography in Miller Hall through Oct. 15.

DeMarte found the items he used in the 15 silver gelatin prints and one archival inkjet print while he was spending three years in the Middle East teaching photography at a women’s university in the United Arab Emirates.

He used this collection of ordinary objects discovered abroad to create a relic that illuminated personal memories of his childhood based in the United States.

To reinforce the symbolic nature of his work, DeMarte used a visual strategy and spatially centered the assemblages of objects.

DeMarte’s choice to use deep saturated black value for the still-life prints was a conscious one.

He achieved the low-value color in his photos by using a mix of ink, paint and charcoal before printing on a very high silver content paper.

“That extra sense of removal from the contemporary was important,” DeMarte said. “But I also wanted to connect all the elements, and making them monochromatic did this visually.”

The prints arrested observers’ attention and challenged them to not only look but also think.

He used many Judeo-Christian iconographic symbols, such as a wreath of thorn branches and fish hooks, and converted them into more personal symbols.

“I was trying to figure out what kind of memory he was trying to restore because everything was dead in the portraits but because they’re an expression of him, I can find beauty in that,” said Elizabeth Keagy, a sophomore economics major.

However there was also spontaneity in the process.

DeMarte said he did not seek out the specific objects but that they found him.

“He took little things and gave them life and importance by the compositions he put together,” said Gary Colby, director of the Carlson Gallery and professor of photography.

Although the pieces of “Restoring Memory” were numerically titled, they did not represent his childhood memories chronologically, DeMarte said.

“Memory is for me a constant flux of interpretation; changed and retold to suit my environment and position in life,” he said.

DeMarte is an emerging American international artist currently working as an assistant professor of art at Mississippi State University.

His latest exhibitions have been hosted the E3 Gallery in New York, Abu Dhabi Cultural Center in UAE, Overground Gallery and the Total Arts Gallery in Dubai, UAE.

He is working on a new series entitled “Plastic Nature.”

“All I would really want is for people to find their own connection to the work,” DeMarte said.

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