Kristin St. Louis
A childhood concussion sparked my intrigue with human memory and the archival acts that are taken to preserve these memories; writing, photography, ceramics—to name a few. However, nothing is immortal to time, inevitably they will deteriorate and fade into obscurity. By telling an incomplete and imperfectly archived story, my work seeks to explore the ways in which photographs, memory, and ceramic archives can warp and fragment over time. My medium of choice, Egyptian faience embodies this. Over time the ‘flaw’ in my material—efflorescence—will form a layer of salt over my images, obscuring them even further, and gradually my ceramics will erase themselves.
Knowing my memory is often unreliable, I, like many others, have attempted to extend the lifespan of memories through photo documentation. An attempt to preserve precious moments and fleeting experiences in hopes we can someday relive them, even when the physical memory has long since abandoned us. My current body of work is made from a set of images from my childhood that I took in a flurry before moving schools. The view out my window, the sky above my school, and a good number of my best friends in the concrete schoolyard. I forgot entirely about the existence of this series of images until their rediscovery, but what I do recall is the emotional reasoning behind this documentation, which I have revisited and woven into my ceramic works.
A Place I Forgot
Three of my friends gather together, while two others pass by. The figure in a blue dress holds a pink camera, a bag of snacks hangs from her hand. A strand of my hair enters the upper left frame of the camera shot; its presence exaggerated by the pixelization of the image. Similar to the way digital information is composed, I employed a grid to break down the information presented by my source photographs. Making the pixels larger than they are normally used causes the image to lose a great amount of clarity, but also makes each individual square much more important. By dividing it in such a way I wanted each individual tile to feel purposeful, with each colour decision lending itself to the larger image, and its own anonymous identity.
A Place I Thought I’d Forget
Individually these tiles are explorations into different ways to recreate photographic images using Egyptian faience. What details are lost in the translation between materials? What remains? What is emphasized after the shift? Mixing my own material from scratch has allowed me to intentionally choose to document a permanent flaw in the material. As time passes, a coating of salt will form on the work’s surface, clouding and obscuring the image. Efflorescence is a physical glitch, frosting the work just like a faded memory. These replicas will not last in a perfect state forever. Serving as an example to how, no matter how desperately we try to preserve them, our experiences are not immortal. Photos can be damaged. Data can be corrupted.
Barghest was created as a way to explore the impact that adding live sound would have on my ceramic pieces. Are these creatures just empty vessel-like pots? Or do they blur the line between flesh and ceramics with their vocalizations? Reverberating within the cavernous internal spaces of Barghest is an agitated reservoir of water, whose sounds can be heard coming from the beast’s maw and ears. It was important that the source of the sound is physically located within the piece, instead of a recording, to further push the consideration of just how alive this sculpture may be. My solution to this technical challenge, ironically, was to intentionally create a lidded vessel that questions its own nature as such.
Lethe plays with my own poor memory and the common place myth that goldfish have short memories. To reflect this neurological state the figures head is that of a fish, while the rest remains human. I’ve found that when you lack memories of nearly all aspects of life, it begins to eat away at your sense of identity. The surface as been carved out and replaced with Egyptian faience. Removing what the figure once was and replacing it with something new. The scaled figure exists in an odd in-between space, not a person, not a fish, she floats between the two. The title refers to the mythical river of forgetfulness. Giving context to where this creature resides; on the banks of a river that both houses, and robs her of memory.
A light hearted memento mori themed clown to encompass the duality of these serious—yet absurd times. The patterns I created are not only meant to emphasize repetition as an aesthetic, but as a reminder of its presence in our lives. The monotony of daily existence can make days easily slip by, but maybe it’s time to have a little fun despite it. The consideration of the relationship between positive and negative space made me reflect on how the highs and lows of life are so dependent upon each other to be effective – without sadness, we can’t recognize joy. Without joy, we can’t recognize sadness. Without death, we have no appreciation for living.
A personal illustration and character design of a blood moon warlock for a Dungeon & Dragons campaign with friends.
The Storm Caller
A personal illustration of a seafaring tempest cleric for a Dungeon & Dragons campaign with friends.