Layer 2
Antonia Curry, the possibility of loss

Dead Bugs, a Billboard, 1970s Polaroids, and Toy Cameras:

Local Photographer Blurs and Constructs Memory Across Generations in the possibility of loss

Childhood is fragile. The 1970s taught us that. It was a time when couples started getting divorced in large numbers, or never bothered marrying. A time when kids got shuffled from party to party and from parent to parent, left to fend for themselves. In an exhibit titled the possibility of loss, Bloomington photographer Antonia Curry not only captures the vulnerability of childhood in that era, but explores how it has impacted the mothering of her own child. The exhibit takes place at Indiana University’s SOFA Gallery from December 9-13, 2003, with a reception on December 12, 7-9 p.m.

“This is a story about my daughter and about my memories of being a daughter,” explains Curry. “It’s about how these two stories meld into one.” Just as a therapist emphasizes how childhood influences one’s choices and identity as an adult, Curry uses images and text to delve into her childhood experiences as a means of wondering what memories her now-four-year-old daughter will have as an adult. Throughout the exhibit, the artist intersperses images from her childhood with images of her daughter, and—by making many of the images appear to be Polaroids from the 1970s—blurs the lines between which is memory and which is now.

“I want to make pictures in a way that evoke the slipperiness and elusiveness of a memory,” says Curry. “But I also need a story. For the same reason I read novels: to find a grain of truth or to identify with the characters. This is what I look for in photographs. I want to understand the people that are pictured, I want to get into them, compare their life to mine, look at their furniture, hear their thoughts, learn from them.”

There are three “chapters” to the possibility of loss: the indistinct and hazy memories of Curry’s childhood, Curry’s view of her daughter’s world, and her daughter’s reality, seen through her own yellow and red plastic Fisher Price camera. Curry uses a plastic camera herself for many of the images. There is a cult among some artistic photographers that utilize plastic cameras—such as a Holga—because of the mysterious images they create with blurry images and dark edges. The tool is useful for creating a feeling of memory. “It’s about the process of creating memory, and the invention of memory,” explains Curry. “I want it to be unclear as to whose memory it is, it could be mine, it could be my daughter’s. The goal is to confuse time, so that you’re not sure what period you’re looking at, you’re not sure whose story you are reading. I want the viewer to enter the nostalgia of her own childhood.”

One section of the exhibit combines the aesthetic of a scrapbook with mixed media that brings to mind the churning of childhood melancholy. One page is decorated with dead bugs while another is covered in a combination of beeswax and human hair clippings. The pages are spotted with text that evokes the childhood experience of the 1970s, hairy armpits and all. Another section reads like still frames in a film. Thirty six images are placed on a grid, offering snapshots of daily life. Dad waking up. An intimate hug. Thanksgiving dinner. A day at the zoo.

Bloomington locals may be more familiar with the work of Antonia Curry than they realize. This October, two of Curry’s images were featured on a billboard on Bloomington’s West Third Street. The art piece—which pictured Curry’s sleeping daughter and a scene from an airport runway—was awarded with the billboard feature by Your Art Here, a non-profit arts organization that ran a statewide art competition that resulted in the work of five artists featured on billboards throughout Indiana.

This exhibit builds on an emerging tradition of artists looking deeply into their immediate world. Rather than taking a long and distant view of the larger societal picture, these photographers answer fundamental life questions by examining their own intimate relationships.

“As a new mom, I’m faced with the reality of shaping another being’s life,” says Curry, “of helping to create a childhood, and my child’s memories. It’s thrilling and daunting. A major shift for me, which I think happens with a lot of new parents, is that I now view my own childhood with a new perspective. I can reevaluate my experiences based upon what I am learning by being a parent myself.”