Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Ancestral "Garden" of Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier (Visual Artist

Atlanta-based visual artist Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier at times speaks of the “garden” of her imagination, deeply embedded in family histories, to which she returns again and again.
I’m especially interested at Linnemeier’s deployments and interrogations of photographic media, often in conversation with painting, collage, and textured surfaces, in the making and exploration of this garden of the imagination. The garden image is a deeply resonant one: so often, gardens have subtle histories that span the generations, linking grandmothers, daughters and grand-daughters through common purpose, labor and aesthetic decision-making, in ways that may scarcely need to be spoken of but which are profoundly meaningful. Many of the photographs out of which Linnemeier plants and harvests her garden are mined and appropriated out of painful, violent histories: these include racist or lurid stereoscopic images produced by white photographers. Linnemeier is committed to rediscovering in these colonial images dimensions of beauty, dignity and spirituality that had long seemed entirely obscure. In images of the southern black “Mammy” for instance, she finds echoes of the sacred Afro-Atlantic priestess, the “Mambo.” She speaks of her work as a “great altar” that binds different different sites and moments in space and time. This too seems akin to the work of the gardener, who may juxtapose a wide range of plants and flowers from near and wide, nurturing them all in a productive tangle. I am reminded that among the Achuar, an indigenous people of the Upper Amazon, women speak of the plants in their gardens as their “other children,” whom they must sing into life, just as they sing to nurture their human offspring. Linnemeier’s garden of the imagination is filled with comparable sacred charges, whom she sings into being with her remarkable incantations.

She takes us into this dynamic memoryscape in her short video at:

One of her most interesting installations, Miss Sisi's box, moves from a Mississipi plantation to the magical summoning up of Chiaka, the eldest African female elder in the New World. Lynn's mytho-documentary takes off from this sculptural work:

The first elder wrestles with the predicament of never having been initiated, of having been cut of from the songlines of the ancestors. The work of the artist, it would appear, is to help reconstitute these long ruptured lines of continuity, to once again link distant ancester, near ancestor, past and present, self and posterity in dynamic, productive associations. The boxes of the installation open their doors, and through these opens we are invited into what the artist terms "fissures in time" through which we and the ancestors are mutually enlivened. Like a vibrant garden, the installation is a "heterotopia" that cannot be grasped from a single vantage point, but which must be walked through, peered into, settled into, and nurtured again and again.

See Lynn's blog at:

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