Misplaced Memories

Works by Michelle Cortez Gonzalez and Austin Uzor

November 13 – December 12, 2020

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Misplaced Memories is a two-person exhibition addressing present realities affected by past events through paintings by Michelle Cortez Gonzales and Austin Uzor. When left unpreserved and without witness, our fickle and fleeting memories are retold through physical artifacts and reproductions of ambiguity that, over time, become our truths. Finding ourselves at this crossroads of uncertainty, we seek comfort in our memories of the past and navigate our journey through them. Together, Gonzales and Uzor attempt to narrate stories for the future when the vocabulary of the past is temporarily lost.

Michelle Cortez Gonzales’ work explores the nature of history within fragmented memory — the space where reality and illusion collide, and narratives are reconstructed. By juxtaposing abstraction and representation together with the process of sewing textiles and building up the surface with found and made materials, she tricks the eye with what is and is not painted. Her constructed paintings are sourced from sentimental remnants such as family photographs, found domestic furniture, used bedsheets, and tablecloths. Her compositions have an ambiguous nature, which correlates with remembering something; it continually changes and shifts.

While towing similar lines, Austin Uzor’s work investigates the idea of time and the role it plays in affecting possibilities and the result of the outcome in present realities. The presence and absence concept becomes a focus in his oil paintings while exploring psychological spaces and alternate realities. He also works with old family photographs as he uses fragments from the past as a tool to build portals into his world of uncertainties and possibilities, mirroring his reality of existing between two worlds simultaneously. “Manufactured memories” become an outcome of his attempt to navigate the hurdles of identifying home, religion, and identity through his experiences.

Artist Statement by Austin Uzor:

My paintings and drawings are a way for me to explore the idea of having a “home” while feeling “homeless.” My earlier works were based on an investigation into African Migrants’ journey through the Sahara desert and Mediterranean sea to Europe. With recent events in war-torn African countries, I wonder about the politics of conflict in the Sub-Saharan regions and its ripple effect and contribution towards human displacement. This focus is personal; It is an introspective conversation centered on my current status as an immigrant in the United States of America. From an endless exploration of visual vocabularies, every gesture and depiction of objects are channeled towards creating a cinematic, panoramic, immersive, and performative environment. Each element is associated closely with what used to be a normal place but is no longer recognizable. The use of visual architectural structures, forms, and recurring figures in unrecognizable spaces, while juxtaposing reinvented sceneries with more resonant imagery informs the therapeutic process of almost getting to that closure that almost never exists. My paintings stem from the exploration of psychological spaces, forms, and figurative interpretations through atmospheric scenery and color language. In contrast, my drawings look more like the swift and fine movement of an army of organized and carefree lines pushing for a settlement that only exists in my mind. At this point, all that is left is just debris of fast-fading memories, which I try to keep alive by restlessly making paintings in fragments stitched together to illustrate a world that once existed and can only now be accessed by a few.