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April 1, 2023, 3-8pm
Vanguard Sculpture Services
3374 W Hopkins St, Milwaukee, WI 53216  



2023 jurors

grilled cheeses 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 
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Lilly Luft

The past can be a complicated thing for anyone, and our ideas of it are held close to the chest. For trans people, the past can be quite troubling. My thesis work elucidates my past through objects that reengage with old family photos, family members, and the friends I left behind when I transitioned. Each piece in the series reconnects with a specific aspect of my past, and renegotiates that relationship. Like looking back at a photo album, each object reshapes my present, casting the past against it like a shadow, and informs the viewer of that conscious reshaping through careful material and formal decisions.

The first piece of the series, Halcyon’s Carrion, examines a time in my life before gender and before any familial distress that I can truly remember. It is a paired framed photo and necklace, which are styled after a photo and locket featuring my late grandfather that my grandmother kept in her room, draped over one another but never wore. This piece separates a family photo into two parts. One, shielded by smokelike, translucent mother of pearl, is a necklace that contains the faces of my mother, father, brother, and myself. The other a framed photograph with a carefully cut hole and a frame coated in sticky, hard tree resin. These pieces can be brought together to complete the image, but if left for too long or without care, they become inseparable, and the portraits can no longer be carried close to the heart.

I am utilizing old family photos, in conjunction with the natural qualities and associations to gender, naturality, preciousness and time of materials like steel, mother of pearl, and rosin (a synthetic precursor to amber) in order to solidify and examine my tenuous connections to the past and the people in it.

Each material performs a different function toward that examination. When using pearl I am looking back, recasting myself through the lens of the present. I am able to see the girl that I was, even if I hadn't fully reckoned with that yet. I see my own face in my mother's, in my aunt's, even in my father's, in a newly positive light. These reconnections are as diaphanous as pearl, and just as transfixing now that I have them. In near contrast rosin performs a function like amber, it captures and preserves the past without excess reinterpretation, but also without regard for present. When the people of my past see me, all too often they have yet to catch up, they see the person they knew me as superimposed over what is real, and not without good reason. They cannot escape him, he distorts my present through them. Each object reshapes my past and present together as one unit. As a series they embody the way in which the past looms over my present, touching every part of it, and encourage viewers to ask the same questions I have.

$250.00: Wood, glass, and lighting for displays
$120.00: various dimensions of steel for continued work
$200.00 : raw mother of pearl
$100.00: tools for carving and scribing mother of pearl, including burs and holding tools
Total: $670