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2018 Annual Conference


March 01-04, 2018

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2018 SPE Annual Conference: Uncertain Times: Borders, Refuge, Community, Nationhood / Hosted by The University of the Arts

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Sarah Ann Austin

SPE Member since 2012
Member Chapter: South Central


Throughout my body of work, I turn the camera inward as I photograph the idiosyncratic traces of my surroundings often revealing psychological and emotional issues at stake abjectly through interpretations of childhood within the genre of self-portraiture. It is my intension to convey and acknowledge the human condition of hardship, strength and vulnerability.
This work is a re-visioning of my childhood using my children and myself as subjects. Drawing from personal narrative and understanding, I am observing, visually, the precariousness' of childhood experience with interpersonal undercurrents. Serving as a gateway, these images penetrate directly into my history conveying my mutual perception of both being a parent and being parented. In paying close attention to gestures, pauses, and subtleties in a situation I create images that are formally constructed within the chaotic atmosphere of our lives, displaying both the instability and vulnerability of our existence. Considering what takes place outside of the frame, my audience can relate those possibilities to narratives taking place within their own domestic lives.

Questioning the actuality of a history that has yet to be written makes for an interesting and unfolding inner narrative.
Critic Sander Gilman writes, "The truth of the matter becomes the working through of the memories of trauma and of the abuse of power. It becomes a question of the 'now' as much as (perhaps even more than) the 'then.'" Being faithful to my lived reality is truthful but slightly abstracted. With these abstractions I intend to leave room for additional baggage to be laden with my own.

The installation work of Renee Green and her reflections on memory and the archiving of memories have informed my research into the paradox of emerging memories and the incapacity to hold or reveal the labyrinth of all that is remembered. Green indicates that the presence of the archive in a form keeps the memory living, making up for the absence. Notions of absence reappear throughout all of my work, searching for a mental image to artistically incite. Archiving my memories makes forgetting possible. Brenda Atkinson speaks of a resolution of memories telling of "an old African belief that if you experience tragedy or an insurmountable problem, you can put it in a box, and it will be resolved after two years." The transition into digital photography has brought suggestions that I hope to pursue in future projects and installation of my work.

Surviving traces of the way I grew up flutter around me creating internal drive and enthusiasm. Establishing identity through image making, revealing and obscuring memories as they emerge and fade.

Fortune Teller

The Calm


The crossing



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