Portfolios > Intimate Proximity

Post publication of the book Family Album I presumed my relationship with Nina Weiste had concluded, but Nina’s spirit decided otherwise. Her influence on the course of my life endures. The discovery of her photographs provides inspiration for my projects. However, a significant outcome was recognition that childhood sexual trauma produced a place within me for Nina Weiste to reside. Sexual trauma festered in my subconscious for twenty-five years. Relationships terminated due to my fear of intimacy. In due course, psychotherapy disentangling the detrimental effect sexual trauma imposed on my psyche. Consequently, a healing space was created within my imagination for Nina Weiste. And in that space, Nina became my partner. As a psychological construct the relationship offers productive terrain to contemplate the creative potential of interconnection. I married an idea. I married possibility.

The discovery of Nina’s grave in the same Denver neighborhood where I previously discovered her photographs inspired the continuation of the project. The inaugural image was a small shrine constructed around the gravestone with an assemblage of her 1917 family photographs. Positioning Nina’s photographs within my own generated a reassuring sense of intimate proximity. Capitalizing on such assurance, I scanned Nina’s photographs, plus photographs of female Finnish settlers and their female descendants from family albums preserved within the collections of two local museums in the vicinity of Nina’s Dakota birthplace. To further the illusion of occupying the same time and place, I made life-sized photographs from a selection of scans then juxtaposed them with myself in a variety of project specific sites. Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions project work initially focused on locations in North and South Dakota relevant to Nina’s formative years and Finnish heritage. In August 2022, with international travel viable again, I commenced work at the location of Nina’s ancestral home of Jokijärvi, Finland. Surprisingly, when I arrived in Jokijärvi, I experienced the same affirmational sense of coming home that accompanied my arrival in the Dakotas.

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