Ashley Reather BFA Thesis Spring 2012
With my thesis project, On Fatherlessness, I sought to develop the ideas of memory, loss, and identity within the context of my father’s death during my infancy. These terms must be shifted: memory must be shifted into secondhand anecdotes treated with the reverence of memory. Loss must shift as well, not to absence, but rather to lack. The ideas of loss and absence rely on the condition of having once had something. Thus, I lack a father; I did not lose him. Identity is not a word that needs to be shifted so much as it needs to be specified within the context of this work.
The photographs of my home, which was built and lived in by my father, portray a few things to be mentioned: his personal effects and adornments that persist 23 years later, “dead rooms,” and the woman who survives him, my mother. I have truly spent my life searching for my father; I would rifle through drawers as a child and draw my own conclusions about what cufflinks, for instance, said about my father. Presently, I have my mother as a resource. I can ask her as many questions as I can think of, but my father’s identity is therefore necessarily secondhand, incomplete, and misinformed by my clue gathering and the flaws of anecdotes.
The stylized notes, which pepper the salon-style hanging of the photographs, document instances of me reflecting on the idea of fatherlessness. They serve to enhance the uninitiated viewer’s experience by creating a dialogue with the images. As my mother maintains a drawer of my father’s effects, so do I maintain a hold upon the photographs I took. Despite the impossibility of truly knowing my father, I photograph what is not there and frame it and hang it and revere it as if it were a stepping-stone to him. It is only now, with this work, that I may resolve this search in some fashion.