My Lost History

After moving my parents for the third time into an Independent Living facility, I discovered a large storage container with hundreds of old family photographs, some from the late 1800’s, that were all unlabeled, except for some that had the name of the photography studio and the city where they were taken. Over the last three years I’ve tried to ask my parents about them to no avail. They couldn’t recognize anyone, all lost to dementia. All my father knew about them was that they were from the Ennis side of the family, which had come over from Ireland to work on the railroads. I got the distinct feeling that he didn’t want to discuss the family history. My mother had implied that my dad’s father had drunk himself to death. The men, women, and children in these photographs, some certainly my not-so-distant relatives, are lost to history. I can only interact with these artifacts of their lives, an act of recovery through art. After living with these images for the last three years, I‘ve made an installation combining the photos and a film based on them, incorporating sounds and images of America’s railroads, which my forebears helped build, fresh off the boat from Ireland. The Catskill Art Society installation, 2016