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Everyone has a Creation Myth: individuals, families, entire cultures. It’s natural for us to want to learn our own histories and we do, in the form of lineages from companies like ancestry.com and in the juicy, important stuff from our closest relatives. Except. Except families are famously complicated so, for some, history and myth become entangled. This was the case for artist K.K. DePaul, until fate intervened in the form of a box left to her by her late grandmother. The unraveling of her mysterious childhood is the subject of DePaul’s engrossing photographic collages, now at the Griffin Museum at Digital Silver Imaging in Belmont, MA through March 20, 2015.
In her series Only Child, DePaul reconstructs the intricate relationship she shared with her cheerful but emotionally opaque father, a theme she first explored from his point of view in her series Sleight of Hand, referring to his tricks as a magician. In Only Child, we see DePaul represented as a young girl trying to decipher her history through a veil of family secrecy. Her collages are quietly allegorical, with multiple images mirroring feelings of conflicted identity, negative images denoting role reversals in the parent-child relationship and objects such as playing cards used in magic tricks and hat pins used by her milliner grandmother. Like memories themselves, some elements are sharp and others gauzy, echoing the repetitive way that the mind struggles for clues and clarity. Nonetheless, a strong sense of self is reflected in DePaul’s uncluttered compositions, evocative symbolism and a warm, monochromatic palette that serves as her thematic archival glue.
Collage is an apt medium for DePaul, who was a quilt-maker for 30 years and earned her MFA with alternative photographic processes guru, Christopher James. A confessed flea market junkie, she makes use of such finds as used book covers, old maps that are backed with linen (she prints on the linen side), age-stained papers and the occasional photograph, which she usually scans and prints on handmade paper that she’s dyed or painted. Often, DePaul employs photographs that she creates using models. All her work highlights the primacy that texture holds for her. Just as the art of collage reflects identities that have been torn apart and rebuilt, the textures in DePaul’s pieces represent the imperfect quality of our memories and loose weave of our family myths.
DePaul’s photographic collages implore and merit viewing in person. Most are unique pieces: rich, mysterious and touching. Only Child has earned DePaul a deserved place in the 2014 Critical Mass Top 50, just as her series Between The Lines did in 2012. Her exhibit in the Griffin Museum’s satellite gallery at Digital Silver Imaging in Belmont showcases eleven resonant gems. K.K. DePaul will be speaking at the exhibit’s Closing Reception, to which the public is invited on March 19, 2015 from 6-8PM.
For more information, go to: http://www.griffinmuseum.org/blog/the-griffin-museum-at-digital-silver-imaging/
Feature Image: “Cage” from the series Only Child by K.K. DePaul (courtesy of the artist and Griffin Museum of Photography)