Midwest Souls

Several decades ago, while living in Minnesota, I frequently visited flea markets. I was fascinated with photographic portraits, printed on cards, from the 1890’s. The photography studio’s name and city were usually indicated, but not the name of the photographed person.

Having a portrait taken was a very special occasion. People from all walks of life would get dressed up and go to the photographer’s studio. The photo sessions were not pleasant—they required prolonged motionless positions since the exposure times were very long. And then—a printed visual memory for life!

All of these individuals were productive members of society. They had jobs, careers, occupations. Most were married and raised families. Yet, now over a hundred years later, all that we know of them are these anonymous photographs.

The images in these pieces consist of neuronal profiles, intertwined with my own MRI brain scans, electroencephalograms, and transformations of my own previous art work. It is these extensive, overlapping neuronal networks that encode our memories, which include memories of those who were dear to us.

The images also include the portraits of these individuals. Placing the portraits in deeper layers gives them a hazy, ghost-like appearance.

If someone remembers you after you pass, in a sense you are immortal. By using my own neuronal patterns and networks, I am trying to give these individuals a degree of immortality.

Each diptych consists of three layers of printed polycarbonate, back-light by a white LED light in one, and a color-changing LED light system in the other.

This diptych structure corresponds to our own brains, where the left cerebral hemisphere is more analytic, logical, black and white, and the right hemisphere more artistic, creative, colorful.

The three layers of images correspond to our own three levels of awareness: consciousness, sub-consciousness and unconsciousness.

The pieces are either 27 inches or 51 inches in height. They are constructed using poplar wood. Poplar is a hard wood that grows tall and straight. It was the preferred wood for Native American’s dugout canoes. Also, the blossoms of the poplar are similar to lilies. It is called the lily tree. My wife loves her flower gardens, so using the lily tree is in recognition of her support of my art.

All materials used are archival quality. The images are printed with pigmented ink. The electrical light system is UL listed and approved. These pieces were created in 2014 and 2015.

Pieces similar to Midwest Souls may be commissioned to commemorate, recollect, and in a sense, to resurrect, the memories of your own ancestors and relatives.