Half-Life of Memory


My father died eight years ago. Since then, I have forgotten what he looked like.


I find myself relying on family photos to enhance firsthand experiences and, eventually, facsimiles became stand-ins for reality. Why can I still visualize the most mundane things—such as a colorful bag of potato chips dropping from a vending machine ten years ago—but I can’t hold onto the image of my own father? Why do some visual memories ebb and flow over time while others vanish?


In 2017 I had a profound encounter with Louise Bourgeois’ sculpture Return to Avenza II at Dia:Beacon. Still wrestling with the distant image of my late father, I painted my memory of the Bourgeois experience.  After almost a year, I painted the same encounter again to see how my memory of the event might have changed. The two paintings, Portrait of Louise, five days later and 343 days later, launched my ongoing appraisal of memory and the unstable sway of time.


Half-life of Memory is an exhibition of eight new paintings documenting a two-year exploration of visual memory. The exhibition recalls four life-changing moments, each captured in a pair of large paintings. Repression, acceptance and transformation propel each journey—ranging anywhere from a few minutes to almost forty years.

© 2020  David Kuehler