Student Feature: Alyssa Reiser Prince
by Joshua Kelly Published in The Tiger Newspaper
“I have always been interested with why we remember certain things and not others. So [my work] has a lot to do with these every day mundane moments that tend to Stick with us rather than these really big events in our lives,” M.F.A. painting student Alyssa Reiser Prince explained to me when I sat down with her this week to talk about her upcoming thesis show, “Being There” (which will be on display in the Lee Gallery from Nov. 15th-22nd). Her work deals with the very phenomenon which gives rise to our own self-awareness – the act of remembering – in a way that allows the viewer to better understand not just the act of remembering itself, but also gives insight into why we may remember certain things rather than others.
Certainly there is a great deal of literature, both in philosophy as well as psychology, which explores the concepts behind human memory in great detail. However, the work of Alyssa Reiser Prince (as well as the fellow M.F.A. candidates featured in the “Being There” exhibit) attempts to tackle this experience from a visual standpoint.
Starting with a vague memory from childhood or merely a simple concept like “clean”, Reiser Prince takes that memory and truncates it, reducing a specific recollection to an abstract visual that anyone can approach. This process of diminishing personal memories to the point of a semi-recognizable composition is meant to evoke in the viewer a variety of associations and memories, paralleling the actual process of remembering we go through every day.
She prefers to focus on memories which we may tend to think of as small and insignificant. When asked why this is her preferred subject matter she responded, “We end up basing our identities off of these seemingly mundane moments and it is through the process of remembering that we engage with them…But the process of remembering is an active process, you are constantly reinterpreting what you remember based on your present situation so it is a very subjective process. [Your memories are] constantly changing and shifting.” By bringing attention to how many different associations and recollections any individual can have when viewing a vaguely familiar visual, Reiser Prince underscores one of the most complex yet simple facets of how our memory works; it isn’t always the huge events in our past that form who we are, but rather the many small details we often don’t realize we remember that shape our identity and dictate how we react to the larger life events.
In her process she translates the qualities of particular memories – rather than the specifics – into the process of making the paintings themselves. “Childhood memories are often very visceral and immediate,” she said of a series of smaller paintings that she worked quickly with little to no preplanning. “There is not a lot of time spent between thinking about the memory and making the painting; they are very direct.”
In making this body of work, process is very important to Reiser Prince. Because the paintings are worked in the style of the process of remembering they become “very emotionally subjective spaces” and are not intended to be representations of any specific event. There is an inherent questioning within the process as well that hopes to point out that the line between truth and fallacy within our own self is sometimes (more often than not) more murky than we actively think. With this consideration, sometimes her paintings contain an internal failure and seem to lack a realized or fully resolved composition. Reiser Prince says this is intentional; “My paintings are fleeting and incomplete because these moments depicted are themselves fleeting and incomplete.” These works leave the viewer at first wanting more than they are presented with on the canvas, and then it is the task of the viewer’s memory to fill in those blank spots and take the viewer on an internal examination of the process of remembering.
So, if you are into learning more about memory and how your brain works (or doesn’t work like you normally think), or if you are just really into becoming more cultured since that is what all the cool kids are doing these days, be sure to see the works of Alyssa Reiser Prince on display in the Lee Gallery between Nov. 16th-22nd, and check out her website: http://www.alyssareiserprince.com/
Stay Culturious Clemson.