Mara Baldwin

How to remember where you put something
Watercolor and pen on wallpaper mounted panel
48 x 60”
2010
Work in Exhibition:

How to remember where you put something
Watercolor and pen on wallpaper mounted panel
48 x 60”
2010
(Close-up and gallery view)

“What is a ghost?...To most people a ghost is the stuff from which stories are written, the floating, white-clad, luminous form that is seen in deserted houses or in midnight graveyards moaning out messages of terror to the unsuspecting living. To others a ghost is the substance of dreams, appearing at the edge of sleep as the face of a loved one, long gone and almost forgotten, or as the night-mare symbol of all his guilt and his fears... A ghost? Why, a ghost is many things to many people, its nature depending upon the strength of their imaginations.”

-Andrew Tackberry, Famous Ghosts, Phantoms and Poltergeists for the Millions

The visitations of memories are ghosts, apparitions from the past which infuse the atmosphere of the present. They lurk about in places, they have messages for the living, they hover above us in the air. They mischievously move things around, they sulk in corners, they visit uninvited, they vanish and reappear. The power of ghosts is in their provocation—this is how they can comprise Tackberry’s “substance of dreams.” In her book Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History, Heather Love writes about the link between utopian longing and fixation with the past, referring to it as “a willingness to be haunted.” The willingness of the living to be haunted is akin to nostalgia, the disconnected longing for memories. Both are the hope for that which is lost to be renewed. Karl Marx used this imagery in the opening of The Communist Manifesto when he famously penned: “A spectre is haunting Europe—the spectre of Communism.” Marx aligns the presence of spirit not with the haunting failures of the past but with the incitement of change and revolution.

My studio practice focuses on the imagery of domestic interiors in pursuit of the historical narratives built into their arrangement. These projects have been informed by extensive research into the concepts of ‘longing’ and ‘haunting’ in American history. But how does one render a ghost (“the floating, white-clad, luminous form…the substance of dreams”)? If the haunting can be understood as a metaphor for memory, then the ghost story provides the script of how to remember. Heather Love affirms the powerful role of storytelling when writing “history—like the future—is a medium for dreaming about the transformation of social life… [T]hey are wild dreams, desires so powerful that they disrupt the linear temporality of progressive history.” Founded in the immigrant longing for identity, American hauntings exemplify a longing for belonging to an American dream, a dream as transient as ghost itself

--Mara Baldwin.

Artist's website: http://sites.cca.edu/gradthesisevents/2010/finearts/Mara_Baldwin/1.html