Solitary Confinements / A Family Portrait

The family is where we learn who we are, where we begin to figure out relationships and find our way in the world. Part of this involves the stories we tell ourselves to develop a sense of self, and the stories we hidden from ourselves because of what they reveal. The interior life and its relationship to our public life are what Solitary Confinements attempts to explore.

As you enter the space of Solitary Confinements you will be greeted by a group of four standing figures gathered at a table set as if for a meal. Each figure is a large artist book created to dramatize the place of individuals in the context of family life. Constructed from actual items of clothing, each book represents one member of a family consisting of a mother, a father and two children. The brightly colored table, chairs, dishes and flatware suggest elements of a doll house blown up to life-size scale.

Six-foot tall black-and-white murals enfold the family in images of affluent, idealized interiors. On the left wall, glamorous partygoers, drawn from mass-market magazine ads, wait their turn at a festive buffet, ready to brunch at an elegantly appointed table. They are the happy people, marketing entities experiencing the lives real people are expected to admire, the artificial baseline for our dreams and desires.

Our family members tell somewhat different stories. The torso of each opens to reveal a small removable book containing the inner narrative secreted inside our hearts. Sometimes, these personal narratives are in accord with how the world perceives us; often, they are not.

The books within the books of Solitary Confinements are available for visitors to read or examine as they wish. Visitors may also sit in the red chairs around the kitchen table, guests and participants, as it were, in our family portrait.