For several years now I have been working from found photographs. These images are chosen because they reveal something about the sitter that I see in myself, something universal and lasting. At the core, these paintings are about how we define our own identity. What kind of story line have we created for ourselves? We think we can be identified through how we look, where we work, what we eat, what we love or hate, what we drive, who we vote for, et cetera. These are our own collection of things we think we are. We feel these choices speak for us in some definitive way, that they distinguish us from others, when in fact, we are all creating our own fictional world full of rules and biases. We think this will keep us safe. When I look into the eyes of these lost sitters I see the same pride, vanity and terror that I feel. I can also see their hopes and gratitude and their love of life. Like a deer in the headlights, they don’t see what we all know is coming which is life. The layering of images from our collective past, images that we all seem to recognize make the pieces feel familiar and trigger our own more personal stories.
The Wedding is about the hopes and good intentions of all unions. The original image was given to me after I bought my home in Little Rock. This is the family that built, grew up and later left or died in our home. I know very little about them personally, but I live in their house with their ghosts knowing that they felt much the same why I feel about being here. I used the goat to symbolize sure footedness on our path. Birds are hopes and dreams and also ways to escape good and bad situations. Flowers are offerings of gratitude and honor. The only image used from my past was used for the painting of Muscatine. In it my mother and her three sisters pose for us in a pasture on the farm in Iowa. I know about these women’s lives, the joy, heartache and pain, disease and death endured. Still they smile and dance. This all begs the question, who will look at our photos when we are gone? The answer is no one. It’s interesting that images have to be attached to a memory to be important and that should let us off the hook. We can become part of the sea of all humanity. We will be forgotten as well, but in consolation, these people represent us all. --Katherine Strause
Katherine Strause exhibits nationally and is currently the Art Department Interim Chair at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. She holds a Master of Fine Arts from Southern Illinois University.