Most of the time, Suvan Geer’s work is, well, temporary. She has said of her art, “I explore the ephemeral. My materials are common substances with ties to alchemy and the body such as salt, wax, water and milk. In my installations I examine the elusive lived experience within impermanence, memory and time. … I use my art to investigate the meaning created by common residue and things that fade.” She has used eggs and powdered milk to explore birth and nursing and to give women a voice in these intimate experiences. Geer once made a stylish full-length coat from rice; at the end of the exhibition, she composted her creation in her backyard in Orange County.
The stones we are showcasing here – funerary objects – are anything but temporary. And yet, the work links to her art; Geer has said, “I want to make images that shift and change, even as they appear to be stable and unchanging because that’s what reality does, contrary to how we tend to remember it.” What shifts and changes about the headstones for her is “their ambiguous meaning and the memories they refer to but do not reveal.”
Here is how Geer describes these photographs:
“In 2005 I took a road trip to help a friend who is interested in genealogy move across the country. While looking for traces of her family in old graveyards in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, I often came upon headstones carved without names. Some were very old; others looked more recent. I photographed them with Kodak 200 film and my 35 mm, Canon A1 using a 50mm 1:18 lens. The film was developed at a local Kroger. When I got home to California I found similar anonymous stones in graveyards here and photographed those. I scanned over 200 images into my computer, digitally removed the color, and cropped, burned and dodged the images playing with legibility. Some I had printed in a catalog. A very few were lithographed onto silver leaf so that the image vanishes or shifts color with the light. The series is ongoing.”