I collect discarded memories, then reinvent them.
Photographs came first, being the most obvious purveyors of human memory. These representatives of forgotten memories are quite common in antique stores. I have boxes of them now and sorting through them I am flooded with emotions. I am particularly sensitive to the portraits. Antique photographs reflect the mortality of people and things. They capture the inevitability and reliability of deterioration that I respect, but that results in an unnatural desire to resurrect them, that I cannot suppress. The sadness in the realization that these people have been forgotten on some level and the symbols of their memories discarded to be found by me, a stranger, proves overwhelming. Each image contains secrets and truths. Influenced by the mood of the photograph, I choose a color palette. In addition to color, I use shape and pattern, which are informed by the natural contours and existing value contrasts, to transform each subject. The mosaic-like effect creates a lovely web of contour lines, which in turn implies movement.
The photographs ultimately led to the acquisition of other personal ephemera and artifacts. Letters, memo books, legers, coloring books, games, toys, dolls and more have been added to my collection of memories from past lives. Some of these findings are painted in the same fashion as the portraits, but others become part of imagined histories. I develop relationships and connections between photographs, letters, newspaper articles, magazine clippings and more, that connect multiple histories and ultimately those histories with issues of the present. A compilation of previously unrelated artifacts becomes a fictional narrative. Thus far, my narratives examine such universal subjects as childhood, child-rearing, religion, mental illness, substance abuse, neglect, social expectations, gender norms, and death. The process involved in creating these pieces is particularly challenging, sometimes even troubling for me. The issues are very real, the people were at one time very real, their sadness or anger or joy were real too, but I have fictionalized them. I experience anxiety about whether it is wrong to tamper with other people’s lives, particularly when many of my stories are dark. But, it is obvious that the desire to create these pieces is greater than the guilt and fear that it poses to my conscience.
April Deacon is an artist and art educator living in Wheelersburg, Ohio. She earned her BFA in Painting from Ohio Wesleyan University and her MA in Painting from Marshall University. In the studio, her paintings and mixed media works oscillate between celebrating and criticizing humanity. April’s work has been exhibited nationally. Recent exhibitions include Projecting Grace at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, the Ohio Biennial Juried Exhibition at the Riffe Gallery, Hear Our Voice: Art of the Women’s March in Asheville, North Carolina, and Come Along with Me at the Riffe Gallery. April is also a Joseph Editions Ohio Portfolio Artist. April has spent her 18 year teaching career educating students in underserved communities. Currently at Portsmouth High School, April has twice been awarded Teacher of the Year. In the classroom, April is passionate about arts integration and community based learning. She has collaborated with students and visiting artists on multiple public art projects in Portsmouth including several relief murals and a sculpture garden.
Much of my recent work represents various reflections on my sense of place. Beginning with the Forgotten Series, I celebrate the forgotten faces and history of Southern Ohio with altered vintage objects and photographs. In the Potential Energy Series, I celebrate my own children and the young people I teach while contemplating the challenges they face growing up in Appalachia. Through the Idols of Worship, I struggle to come to terms with the intersection of my own religious background, the deep faith found in my community, and the things valued and worshipped by American culture. Each of these series stems from a deep personal connection to a place and to people that I once spent a great deal of time separating myself from. I was not born in this place, but it is more a part of me than any other place I have ever been.