Each work in this series began with a two-word phrase in current common usage amongst English-speaking North Americans. The compositions, while based on idioms used in contemporary culture, resonate through shared symbology, inviting endlessly varied individual interpretation. The staged construct was discarded after being photographed. The resultant photograph was manipulated and became the final print, differing markedly from the original collage. By expunging this first phase, a greater valence was given to the final print, in the way that historical photographs are often all that remains of a person or monument, imbuing a sense of sentimentality. This is also intended to invoke an eerie distortion since the time and space that the discarded collage once inhabited has been abandoned forever.
Carolyn Gray Anderson provided the thought-provoking essay, Archaic Heritage for the catalogue of the Beyond Words series (made possible by the Canada Council for the Arts). Carolyn Gray Anderson is an editor and critic based in Los Angeles, California. Her publications include numerous exhibition catalogues and articles on the work of contemporary artists, as well as essays addressing historical topics ranging from the Wunderkammer to the theories of Aby Warburg to Josephine Baker and Grace Jones. She became interested in Susan Malmstrom’s work in the early 1990s when the artist took her camera to Disneyland and exposed, in large-format photographs, the dark complexities lurking behind sugar-coated fairy tales.
A downloadable PDF version of the catalogue is available here.