Kenyon Class of ’14, Studio Art major
I have always considered myself a reader—maybe even longer than I have considered myself an artist. For most of my childhood, I staked my identity on being a bookworm. I spent hours in my town library, carefully inspecting each book in the children’s section and never emerging with fewer than four in my hands. It is natural for me, then, to make art that uses text as its inspiration, to choose the imagery for my work based on the words that I find on discarded library catalog cards.
Though my catalog card collection provides information for books that I have never and will never read, I choose text that captures my attention—text to which I can draw a personal connection. In this way, my work is autobiographical: my experiences, interests, and personality are inherent in my paintings. I choose library catalog cards and interpret the out-of-context titles through the lens of my own experience, pairing the cards with family photographs of significant places from my life.
I’m naturally drawn to places from my past, places where I grew up but will never see again: the ruins of what would have been my childhood home; a family vacation home, sold to pay off debts; the swing set, transplanted from California to New Hampshire, where I spent most of my summer afternoons. My paintings are as much about my memories of these places—places that define who I am today—as they are about the places of themselves. Collectively, these paintings are something of a self-portrait, an autobiography: they depict my own history and experiences, arrived at through the interpretation of titles of books. The catalog cards provide a sense of memory and history; these relics of the past serve as a means to explore my own.
— Elise Shattuck, ‘14