Reverse Researching Arlene Gottfried

Excerpt from Arlene Gottfried’s Mommie

For another Reverse Research exercise, I looked at Arlene Gottfried’s book, Mommie, and stumbled upon this image. Here is a list of factors and elements that I dragged out of this particular photograph:

  • floral
  • pattern
  • bed
  • book
  • archive
  • portrait
  • history
  • wedding
  • generations
  • comparison
  • heirloom
  • family
  • document
  • documentary
  • personal
  • diaristic
  • still life
  • temporal
  • mortality
  • nostalgia
  • longing
  • stories
  • sharing
  • construction

Mommie: Three Generations of Women is a book by Arlene Gottfried that documents her grandmother, her mother, and her sister. It’s very emotional, honest, and raw (at least, what I skimmed of it.)

Here is some info on Arlene Gottfried that I found on the internet:

  • Born in Brooklyn
  • Graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology
  • Freelanced for The New York Times Magazine, Fortune, Life, and The Independent in London.
  • She lives and works in New York City.

Coming Out With Trauma

My last year of graduate study has started, and with it came a new set of problems for me to solve.

I had an idea at the start of the summer, which was to compile an archive of my past. Now that I have opened up about the trauma I experienced as a child and allowed myself to think about it instead of trying to shove it down into the recesses of my memory, I came to the realization that everything I have ever done could be linked back to that one event. I decided to start “An Encyclopedia of Trauma.”

Now, it’s a huge archive, perhaps its too much information, but I’m trying to take my old certificates, drawings, photographs, notes, diaries, whatever and put them in chronological order, to create a timeline of my life. I’m including anecdotes and constructed images in this mess– and that is what it currently is. A mess. There is a ton of information, some think perhaps too much.

Here is a very abridged sample, from the earlier part of my timeline:

It’s hyper personal, as I reveal my thoughts, my prayers, my mental illnesses. Right now it is completely raw, maybe even unhinged. But I can’t stop– I need to do this, and not just for myself. Sure, maybe it is a great therapeutic activity, but I wouldn’t just define it as that, because quite frankly, it’s more than that. I want to create this book because I know I’m not alone, that my story has variations that other people have undoubtedly lived, and we need to look at the uncomfortable truths that come with living through life with the weight of trauma bearing down on everything a person does.

This project is daunting, and I need to take it step by step. I need to first finish scanning in and collecting my archive. Then, I can cull through it and pick out what matters and what doesn’t. The thing with graduate study is you oftentimes get demands disguised as advice. The important thing to remember is to consider it, pick it apart, and apply it the way you feel you need to. And that will be my challenge this year. How do I take something so raw and personal and make it into something an audience can swallow? Is that what I want to do? How personal is too personal? Can I show the world my insides and be able to call it art? Does anyone care?

These are the problems I need to work through. I’ve always loved a good challenge.

Happy Shooting!

Reverse Researching Mike Kelley


“Ahh…Youth!,” 1991/2008, set of eight Cibachrome photographs, 19 5/8 x 12 7/8 inches each (Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts / The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA)

As part of my Research as Creative Practice course this semester, I’ll be doing an exercise on a piece by Mike Kelley, titled “Ahh… Youth!” where I will examine the image and title and consider what I think are the elements and factors of the work. Before researching it. So, list, ahoy!

  • Stuffed Animals
  • Portrait– Self Portrait?
  • Bear
  • Bunny
  • Monkey
  • Bee
  • Clown?
  • Alien?
  • Crochet
  • Knit
  • Stuffed
  • Sew
  • Born
  • Old
  • Loved
  • Abused
  • Memories
  • Nostalgia
  • Childhood
  • Innocence
  • Dirty
  • Smelly
  • Thrift Store
  • The Artist Himself?
  • Mug Shot
  • Prison
  • Crime
  • Witness
  • Weird
  • Color as Indicator
  • Reminiscing

That wasn’t so bad. Now, here is what I read about Kelley:

  • American Artist, Born in 1954, Died in 2012
  • From Michigan (Represent!)
  • Used found objects, photography, installation, video, painting, drawing, just about every art medium in his work.
  • His work frequently deals with childhood, trauma, rebellion, class, and pop culture.
  • There are lots of rainbows in his work. Bitches I love rainbows.
  • MoMA and Guggenheim are just some casual places he’s had work.
  • PS1 Show by MoMA was the biggest solo-show of his work
  • Kelley was found dead of apparent suicide on January 31, 2012

Thinking about Kelley’s work, about childhood and trauma and getting into trouble and youth and school and the notion of repressed memories and how he grew up in a working-class suburb of Detroit (Represent!) and how he died of apparent suicide makes me head spin. Maybe I’m projecting my own childhood and trauma and schooling and everything else onto his work, but hey, that’s part of contemporary practice, I’m sure.

RIP, Banana Man.

Image result for mike kelley banana man