I first met Smith Eliot when I curated her work into Photo+Construct, a group exhibition of mixed-media and sculptural photography way back in 2007. Over the years I have admired her ability to tell a story with photographs and found materials. Her book-like constructions contain narratives that are deep, soulful, sensual, often focused on dark, melancholic and personal refections of life, death, and everything in between. Finally, I’ve decided to carry her work in inventory and I think you will find it as compelling as I do.
Smith tells us:
This box is about the loss of a friendship. It is from my Ghost Ships series:
Legend has it, that the Octavius, a three-masted schooner, was found adrift by a whaling boat in October of 1775. A search party of five from the whaler climbed aboard the Octavius and discovered the entire crew of 28 fully dressed and frozen at the helm. The captain was seated at his desk, pen in hand…also frozen. According to his log, last dated October of 1762, the Octavius had been lost at sea for over 13 years.
Similar stories exist of other derelict ships, discovered floating and directionless – some with crews in various states of decomposition, some devoid of human remains, but with dining tables set, the passengers’ personal belongings all intact.
I heard of the phenomenon of ghost ships for the first time last year while listening to a podcast called “Lore.” The notion of empty vessels, floating aimlessly in the ocean for years captured my imagination as much as the fact that so many explanations have been attempted to understand what happened to them.
This body of artwork is inspired by this idea, and is comprised of photographs and objects that position people as ghost ships – as vessels adrift, as impermanent, transient. I see my boxes as time capsules into which objects are placed adjacent to, or on top of photographic images. Frequently recurring visual referents to our inability to Know include blindness and fragmented text.
All images are shot on film. Many of the visual artifacts—such as staining and speckling are a result of chemical processes in the darkroom, though my photos are a mixture of analog and digital processes.
The objects contained within my boxes are found in various places. Some are garnered from estate sales, some are found on the ground…some are simply the bits and pieces that I’ve accumulated just by living my life.
|Title||16 Barbs to the Back|
|Place of Publication||Portland, OR|
|Number of Images/ Illustrations||3 original photographs|
|Book Structure/ Binding Method||Hinged wooden box|
|Medium/ Materials||Paint, acrylic media, paperclay, bamboo skewers|
|Paper Stock||Archival photo paper|
|Dimensions (WxH) or (WxHxD)||7.5 x 7.5 x 2.5 inches closed|
|Signed and Numbered?||Signed by the artist|