January 5, 2006 – from an entry in my private journal:
i’ve been thinking a lot about human relations
about the rigidity or fluidity of the boxes we paint ourselves into.
i love boxes.
there are secrets in them...
beads, gum wrappers, images cut from my contact sheets
they are dark inside.
i tried to make one wet but it rusted
so I tried to make another one wet but the wood got swollen
i am the wettest box I know.
A few years back I found a tiny wooden box at a garage sale. It was empty, but in its former life had been home to a set of 6 miniature sterling spoons. There was a strip of notched wood glued to its back wall –one spoon had fit neatly into each notch.
That box suggested things to me. I wanted to fill the notches, to breathe purpose back into it. I took it home, installed tiny bones into the vacant notches, lined the walls with cyanotypes, painted the outside and gave birth to my first box.
Slowly, over the years, as the boxes have grown in number, certain features stand out as important about them. There are, indeed, secrets in them. It’s in the nature of boxes to hide something...if the box is closed, the insides are hidden from view. If the box is open, the exterior cannot be seen. That fact: that there is always something hidden -something secret- is essential to how they work...as it is essential to how human beings also work. Another important feature is that they require contact in order to be known. The viewer must touch, unlock, and open the box before the contents may be revealed. Often there are hidden compartments in the boxes, or surprises you can’t see or even suspect from the first cursory glance.
Each box is a one of a kind creation and is its own little world with its own story or set of emotions. Recurring themes in this body of work include: the passing of time, memory, and challenging relationships. All the images are mine. Besides my own photos I also use wallpaper, paint, and paper-clay to sculpt the contours of the insides of the boxes. I also use antique doll parts, bones, insects and old books inside them. One box can take many weeks to make, depending on the construction choices and dry times.
Detail shots appear below.
The images for "Dust" were shot in an abandoned home in Oregon City.
August 6, 1986: I woke up and had no idea who or where I was, what day of the week it was, or what I’d done the night before. I sat up in my Murphy bed and looked out onto my single room apartment on the south side of Chicago. I saw a quick flicker -like snapshots- of my surroundings... - blobs of acrylic paint squashed into the dirty berber carpet - burn-holes on the window sill - overturned bottles and crushed cans on the desk.
...and like trying to find that special, obscure signal on the radio dial -moving into it for the briefest second and then quickly out of it, dialing back slowly, slowly, I finally stopped on the hairline of reality that was “me.”
This wasn’t the first blackout I’d had in the past 15 years. I’d struggled many times to patch together some reasonably representative semblance of what occurred during blackouts...the reconstructive process was familiar and alien all at once.
Nearly 30 years ago on August 6th, everything changed; I got clean and sober. And yet I’m still patching things together, looking for skeleton keys, for needles in haystacks and for small hidden rays of light.
My blackouts and lapses in memory have led me to conclude that memory exists as discrete points in space. They are muddied by time, and made obscure by a certain kind of accretion. Our minds draw figurative lines between these points, and give us the illusion of seamlessness, but memory is actually fragmented, perforated and fleeting. This body of work explores events that have happened (or are happening) in my life from this perspective.
Technically speaking, these images are collages of negatives. I have many, many 1000's of old large format negatives from the past, some of which I have bought in bulk from garage sales, and others that are my own. Each one is modified through cutting, scratching, marking and inking, and unconventional materials such as blood, salt, hair/fur and silver shavings are introduced. The resulting pieces are mostly held together by scotch tape. After being assembled, I scan the negatives and create prints.
I am currently working on a new presentation for these: mounted to cradled wooden panels that are cut to fit the shape and dimensions of each piece, and then finishing them with encaustic medium.
smith eliot, Summer 2016
"Narcissa at 4"
"My Sister's Sentinel"
"Sticks n Stones"
"Closets n Cubby Holes"
"The Voices of our Ancerstors"
"What You See Is Not What You Get"
Mini Collages on Linen
These pieces are an extension of my collaged negatives in the "Fragments" gallery. These are quite small, approximately 4 x 6 images, more or less. I started creating these in late December, 2015 and took a break in January after classes started back up. There are more coming, as I loved making these!!