Sontheimer, Matthew Stuart
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I come from a family of great story tellers. As a result, when I think of family members, it is not of their physical characteristics but of the stories that are told by them and about them. This series of sculptures and drawings are portraits in which the characteristics of the persons represented are constructed out of events in their lives, rather than from their physical attributes. These works recount both my earliest and most recent memories. I begin each sculpture by creating a symbol intended to represent a family member. This symbol is derived from a long process of researching the subject’s background (place of birth, important experiences, etc.). This information is condensed into a form, often a common object, which I feel fully summarizes the life of the subject. In a sense, the created symbol is like an advertising logo for the subject, an icon that gives the viewer a visual depiction of the essence of the subject. Advertising logos have in fact influenced my approach to the extent that some of the symbols used are adaptations from actual logos. For example, the eyes on the piece "Myra" are taken from the CBS television logo. Once the symbol is realized, I construct it into an object. The surface of this object is then covered with a language of other symbols and patterns which both elaborate and further describe the story of this person. The patterns on the sculptures act both as a visual ground to hold the symbols in place and as a descriptive backdrop. The descriptive function of the pattern is one which reiterates the theme of the piece, or one which describes a more specific aspect of the subject. For example, the pattern of cascading lines on the sculpture, "Myra" form the name Myra written over and over again. These lines are fragmented into shapes which represent droplets of water, and these in turn, relate to the overall form of the sculpture, a watering can. In "House of Fire" a work about my paternal grandfather, a maze-like pattern on one side of the work surrounds icons depicting significant concerns of his. The framework connecting these symbols represents the ambivalence that my grandfather brought into the events of his life.