“In her wildest imaginings, Zeiger finds both things — a story he can carry, and a true one.” — Karen Russell, The New Veterans
American Portraits is an an ongoing collage series that attempts to capture fleeting glimpses of Americanization, a never-ending process which, for Americans, might be largely indistinguishable from the creation of oneself. These large-scale mixed media portraits consider Americans from all walks of life, adorned in some manner with snapshots and images that they choose to share, revealing tendrils of ancestry and aspiration, a mix of loss and dreams.
Human memory is imprecise and reconstructive. The act of remembering is an ongoing sensory process, involving a constant re-filtering of past events through new ones. Most of our memory narratives are not fully formed or even coherent, peppered with inconsistencies, omissions and modifications. Memory is fluid. Photographs are static.
Americans have come from every corner of the world, creating a kaleidoscopic culture-rich landscape of shimmering memories and endlessly shifting stories of many refurbished selves. In creating each collaged portrait in the series I am continually struck by how deep and nuanced all of our stories are; and yet, as I cut and arrange reproductions of another person’s treasured snapshots — one of the only tangible forms of memory — I am aware of how much I do not know, cannot ever know about another human being. While anemic in its representation of a life lived, every single snapshot contains infinite layers of meaning and mystery.
Notes: This is an on-going project. Each original collage is just under 4 feet along the longest edge on archival matte photo paper. The reproduced snapshots that are collaged in are also on archival matte paper, with slivers of gold paint in between the spaces, creating a subtle kintsugi effect. Each portrait is made with a medium format camera, allowing for large reproductions. The collage process for each portrait takes about two months from start to finish, depending on the complexity of the piece.