domestic sight

  D   O   M   E   S   T   I   C       S   I   G   H   T

I explore the hierarchal distinctions that appear to categorize different kinds of actions: the perceived lowly and mundane, such as personal rituals and domestic activities; and, those that apparently reside on the higher plane of science and technology, namely laboratory research and digital processes.

Using digital processes I re-present objects associated with the domestic sphere in the context of the electronic age. My images combine tools and personal objects that are found in the home, and in some cases belong in a laboratory. With the aid of digital technology, I aim to remove these hierarchical distinctions associated with higher and lower forms of technology. I attempt to muddy the separation between women’s work, especially menial labor, from the rest of cultural achievement. Menial, unseen, uncompensated work is often central to daily life, and is performed in the home (cleaning, cooking and care-giving). By extension, there is a culture connected to women’s activities that is also denied importance.

The history of the witch, including tales of subversions of domestic activity, has provided a point of departure. The myths of the witch parallel those of Dedaelus and Icarus, through references to science, magic, immortality, and a defiance of the laws of nature. I am drawn to stories of attempts to overcome human physical limitations. With the advent of the laboratory research of the 21st century, controversies of our time often circle around decisions over sustaining or terminating human life, which encourage our reflection on myths of immortality.

Still life often references the messiness of our humanity, through a documentation of domestic activities such as eating and drinking, what Norman Bryson calls “the small-scale, trivial, forgettable acts of bodily survival and self maintenance.” The rendering of intimate, close spaces reinforces this connection back to the physical presence of the viewer, placing the body at the center. Still life has the potential to acknowledge the anonymity of daily life while also providing a vehicle for the allegories generated by the vanitas, a traditional approach to still life that references human mortality and rejection of worldly possessions.

The products of a diverse range of our collective activities can now be stored as digital code. Simultaneously, we acknowledge the cultural aspects of physical labor and personal ritual. At times we may express a longing for abandoned rituals practiced in the recent past. Embedded in my working methods lies my ambivalence about shifting technologies as I exchange one set of processes for another. My intimate images hold the viewer close and encourage reflection on commonplace tasks. We rarely question our selection of the daily electronic actions we now embrace, or consider those manual processes we have discarded. This digital transformation affects the ways we define ourselves.

Norman Bryson, Looking at the Overlooked: Four Essays on Still Life Painting Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP. 1990. 14.