“It’s possible…to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace but precise language, and to endow those things—a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a woman’s earrings—with immense, even startling power.”
When painter Juliet Karelsen’s father died in 2013, Karelsen was left to disassemble the New York City apartment he had lived in for nearly fifty years. When photographer Greta Rybus’s 91-year-old grandmother moved into assisted living this year after decades in her family home, Rybus traveled to Montana to help.
“Findings”—opening at ENGINE on 128 Main Street in Biddeford on Friday, September 30 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.—presents the lingering reverberations of these two artist’s experiences observing, sorting, and collecting the objects left behind when a loved one has passed away or slipped into the grasp of dementia. “Findings” runs through November 26.
When we hold our deceased father’s worn wooden-handled tennis racket or our ailing grandmother’s chipped plastic thermos, these seemingly commonplace objects take on meaning far beyond their everyday use. Our unconscious instinct to attach meaning to the memory-soaked objects of our loved ones is startlingly powerful.
As Karelsen sifted through her father’s saved possessions—both the banal and family heirlooms—items that resonated with her were set aside to either keep or photograph. Karelsen both honors and reckons with these saved objects by rendering them in crayon, graphite, paint, paper, cloth, embroidery, and needlepoint.
When Rybus helped her Grandma Jane pack up the house three generations of her family had lived in, they went through the cupboards and shelves together. They lingered over all the things she had saved, the things used by the generations before her, as a way to commemorate the legacy of everyday objects, the inheritance of story, and the substance of generations past and present.
Karelsen studied painting at the School of The Art Institute of Chicago and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Her work has been exhibited across the county, as well as in Europe. Rybus holds degrees in Cultural Anthropology and Photojournalism from the University of Montana in Missoula. About her work, she says, “I’m interested in documenting the full spectrum of the human experience: the struggle and joy, the light and darkness.” This is her first gallery exhibition.
Juliet Karelsen julietkarelsen.com
Greta Rybus gretarybus.com