2016 - Ongoing
then he forgot my name, a self-portrait photography series, examines decay and mortality while reflecting the collective awakening of female power set in American Rust Belt darling, Youngstown, Ohio.
Several years ago my father was diagnosed with dementia, prompting frequent visits to my hometown. Using a family owned historic building in the heart of downtown Youngstown as backdrop, the building yearns to reveal its tales, providing a crucible for conjuring story. Evoking the inner thoughts of women—the ones who lived or worked in the building from its construction. Creating characters through researching past tenants (thank you Mahoning Valley Historical Society), inspired by found objects on set as well as the universality of womanhood, replete with its trials, wounds, strengths, tolerances and impossible tasks.
What began as a project about my declining father evolves into what it means to be a woman, with a look back at our history and tying it to an issue of today, #metoo. The title then he forgot my name takes on multiple interpretations—from memory loss to denial echoing from recent public perpetrators ringing harshly and loudly: “I don’t even remember her” and the coming-of-age vulnerability after intimacy with fears of being forgotten. Cultivating a comparison to our forgotten American Rust Belt, dementia and the women’s movement—that is painstakingly remedied every couple decades to only fade back to past archetypal structures—reminding us little has changed after a colorful display of exhaustive hype and continued focus is needed for lasting change.
The use of the color pallet of red, white and blue in conjunction with the deteriorating state of the rooms both implies and explores the vulnerability of democracy and tenuous nature of power, while flashes of yellow represent the light of new beginnings and potential for rebirth. Despite it all—amid the ruin—the strength of the woman emerges.
Working on my own over 4 years in a derelict building without heat or plumbing. I traveled back and forth from upstate New York to Youngstown, Ohio 5-8 times a year for 2-3 weeks at a time to spend evenings with my father during his illness and daylight hours in the building on my project. The sewing machine, VW van, broom, mirror, stool, broken windows, travel poster, paint roller and rope were all found objects on site. I used each of these items to enhance the story of the characters. Equipment used: Pentax 645z, tripod, gels, light benders, continuous lighting, flash, reflectors, work lights, strobe and natural lighting.
This project is dedicated to my father William J. Copich (1925-2019).