Two Carmel artists pay tribute to their mothers with an unusual photographic installation in P.G.
Thursday, March 30, 2000
Two Mothers Remembered, an exhibition/installation by Carmel photographers Anna Rheim and Donald R. Anderson, is not what you might expect from a traditional photography exhibition dedicated to an artist''s mother.
Vast, sculptural pieces that mix an array of techniques and textiles adorn the walls and ceiling of the Pacific Grove Arts Center, where Two Mothers opens Friday. On personal headsets, audio recordings of mother-daughter dialogue lead the viewer through Rheim''s installation, which is a tribute to her mother''s life through multimedia images of her relatives. Rheim''s collection of images, including bits of poems, books and needle arts, began in 1992 when her father passed away and she realized how important it was to hold onto family memories. She decided to resume her long-abandoned love for photography, first sparked while she was a student at Monterey Peninsula College. Dusting off her camera, she embarked on a project, interviewing her mother and collecting family snapshots.
"Really, it began when I was a child," Rheim says. "I always had an interest in chronicling the family, amassing stories and pictures."
Starting with a collection of photos depicting her dying father, Rheim began meeting regularly with other photographers in Monterey, wondering all the while, she admits, "why people would be interested in viewing a man on his deathbed."
Donald Anderson, who lectures on photography at MPC, CSUMB and UC Santa Cruz Extension, was interested. Upon seeing her work, he told her, "You seem to be the first person I''ve met who shares the same subject matter as me." Anderson urged Rheim to share her work and sentiments with others. "Don gave me encouragement to work with that theme," Rheim says.
Anderson''s own contribution to Two Mothers is composed of 20 separate 3-by-5-foot images of his late mother, printed on transparent litho film, that hang from the ceiling in the main gallery room. His project not only pays homage to his mother''s life, but explores what he calls "the mystery of aging," using varied tone and texture to evoke his mother''s moods as she grew older. Anderson describes his collection of family images as a "visual autobiography." This direction in his work gave shape to his grieving process when his mother passed away in 1998.
Anderson''s technique incorporates conventional materials with mixed-media fabrics for prints. The process is arduous and complex. First, he takes photographs of original family pictures to create negatives to work with. Then he makes multiple prints on regular photographic paper, prints positive enlargements on film, and reproduces the images onto various surfaces. His prints are often torn or cut, combined with textured fibers and reassembled into substantial, 3-D panels and intricate collages. "I hope the finished pieces resonate with viewers who may see their own past reflected in my images," he says.
Rheim and Anderson collaborated in the darkroom, creating very large pieces that took both of them to process because of their sheer size. "There seems to be a resurgence of the old techniques that Don uses," comments Rheim. "He is an amazingly talented, multimedia technician."
For both artists, this show is merely a glimpse of greater, ongoing projects. After six years of genealogical exploration, Rheim''s work resulted in a book titled, Marguerite Noble Teaff, her mother''s biography, compiled from her taped interviews and family fables.
Referring to her 83-year-old mother as her hero, Rheim says, "She is a shining example of unwavering strength, love and remarkable wisdom." In fact, the artist''s own creative nature was perhaps handed down by her mother, whose passion for needlework serves as the theme for her daughter''s project--Rheim uses some of her mother''s original quilts as backdrops for her images.
Two Mothers Remembered opens at the Pacific Grove Art Center Friday. A lecture will be presented April 8 at 1pm.