Student Feature: Alyssa Reiser-Price

October 4, 2013

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,” MFA 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. 15-22). 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 not only better understand 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, that explores the concepts behind human memory in great detail. However, the work of Alyssa Reiser-Prince (as well as the fellow MFA 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,” Rieser-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 a variety of associations and memories in the viewer, paralleling the actual process of remembering what we go through every day.

She prefers to focus on memories that 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, Resier-Prince underscores one of the most mundane 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 will 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,” Resier-Prince 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, the process was very important to Reiser-Prince. Because the paintings were 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, her paintings sometimes contain an internal failure and seem to lack a realized or fully resolved composition. Reiser-Prince explained that this is intentional. “My paintings are fleeting and incomplete because these moments depicted are themselves fleeting and incomplete,” she said. 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 experience an internal examination of the process of remembering.

So if you are into learning more about memory and how your brain works (or how it doesn’t work like you would normally think), or if you are just into becoming more cultured — that is what all the cool kids are doing these days — be sure to see the works of Alyssa Reiser-Prince. Stay culturious Clemson.