Jeannie Polisuk

Statement

My practice centers largely around memory and identity formation. Using a heavily symbolic visual language I explore the human condition through a primarily psychoanalytic lens; Freudian notions of repression and projection guide this exploration of the human condition. These concepts are manifested in surreal visual narratives enacted by unexpected characters.

 

In my work the stuffed toy becomes a visual device to explore how meaning is attached to sites of memory. First theorized by Pierre Nora, these are items of special significance from the past, inanimate objects that become animated through human projection. They act as reminders of youthful sentiment but also as items very much in dialogue with the present. In the case of the stuffed toy, many children and indeed even some adults, take comfort in what Donald Winnicott calls transitional objects. Winnicott posits that these objects act as a stand in for the parent, offering feelings of comfort and security in the absence of the mother. As the child grows older, these creatures may continue to live on as objects of referential experience. By taking the stuffed toy out of its usual context and placing it as an actor in a mysterious and sometimes uncomfortable narrative, my work asks: can visual representations of childhood items such as the stuffed toy facilitate access to memory? If so, what is the veracity of these recollections?

 

A further foundational aspect in my work is the family photograph. A powerful site of memory, the photographic image has the potential to evoke personal histories, as well as collective histories. While I sometimes draw from personal photographs, others are found images that speak to me in some way. I recast the stories therein, retelling them with ambiguous characters that gaze unwaveringly out at the viewer. In this way, the viewer is invited to insert their own histories upon the narrative, to project themselves onto the unusual scenes.

 

My intention is to subvert notions of playful childhood innocence through the use of images and references to this iconic cultural object, the stuffed toy. Popular sentiments and the collective memory surrounding these familiar plush creatures are destabilized, as I seek to challenge the ease with which we reduce the childhood experience to something idealized. Through strange, uncanny juxtapositions, my work points instead to notions of trauma, fear and vulnerability. Melancholy and the passage of time inform my work as I strive to probe the nuance of memory. My points of departure are the syntheses of the real and the imaginary, the endearing and the strange, the beautiful and the grotesque, that characterize the human experience. 

 

 

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