Saved is an ongoing photographic and poetic exploration of the human experience of life, death, and memory. The project considers how memories of the dead become rooted in everyday objects, and how objects convey those memories to the living.
Jody Servon, Artist
Saved was conceived after my father and three friends died in a single year. I was affected by how friends and colleagues bearing similar loss openly shared stories of their own deceased loved ones with me. Many felt prompted to tell me about things they held onto after the death of a loved one.
In an earlier work, Hanging On and Holding Out, I had photographed my late grandfather’s dentures, and was intrigued by how this somewhat uncanny color image resonated with viewers. This observation, coupled with the depth of connection I’d made with the bereaved, led me to borrow and photograph objects that people held onto after the death of a family member or friend. The items, ranging from a below-the-knee prosthetic leg to an old Atlantic City slot machine, are individually photographed on a seamless white background, with close attention on the wear apparent of each surface. It is important for each object to have a unique presence, so the scale of the photograph is based on the personality of the item. Most of the images are larger than actual size to reveal intimate details, such as the loose threads of a scapular or the remnants of food caught in the rolled lip of a well-worn colander.
Lorene and I met at Vermont Studio Center in July 2009. During our four-week residency, I showed slides from the Saved project to the artists and writers of the VSC community. My presentation triggered our initial discussion about how the stories embedded in these photographs could be told in words, which led Lorene to share her writing with me. I was especially captivated by her prose poems of life on the road with her first husband, a minor-league baseball player. The work was intimate, spare, funny and disturbing—in key with the images I was making. Together, we composed interview questions for the owners of the objects I’d borrowed to photograph. By email and in person, I interviewed those who had loaned an object to the project, and then forwarded their answers to Lorene.
Lorene Delany-Ullman, Poet
The prose poems, based on the interviewees’ responses, are meant to evoke the relationships between the objects, the relatives and friends who saved them, and the original owners. We ask the new object-owners to describe their relationship with the deceased loved one, any distinguishing characteristics of that person, a memorable occasion or event shared between them, and what it is that makes the object special. Often the language of the owners is directly incorporated into the poem. Saved is a collaborative work not only between Jody and me, but also between the new owners and us. As collaborators, the new owners lend their objects to be photographed and tell us the intimate, provocative, and sometimes embarrassing stories about themselves and their departed loved ones that we then preserve along with the images.
Jody Servon’s art projects include installations, drawings, photographs, sculptures, video and social experiments. Her work has appeared in exhibitions, screenings and as public projects in the US, Canada, and China. Servon participated in residencies at Vermont Studio Center, Atlantic Center for the Arts, the Contemporary Artists Center, Super G Experiential Residency and was a conceptual artist in residence for the Town of Clayton in North Carolina in 2012. She has received multiple grants including two fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council. Articles and reviews have appeared in: The New York Times, Sun Sentinel, The Palm Beach Post, The Miami Herald, Arizona Daily Star and The Winston Salem Journal. Servon’s work was featured in Issue 70 of New American Paintings, Issue 50/51 of Artful Dodge, and selections from Saved appeared in Issue 74 of AGNI Magazine.
Servon also curates exhibitions focused on contemporary art was a curator at the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art in Florida prior to moving to North Carolina. Exhibition reviews have been appeared in national and international publications. She received a MFA in New Genre from The University of Arizona and a BFA in Visual Art from Rutgers University in New Jersey. Servon is an associate professor and director of the Catherine J. Smith Gallery at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. She currently serves on advisory boards for Elsewhere Living Museum and Collaborative and Turchin Center for the Visual Arts. She currently lives and works in Boone and Greensboro, NC.
Lorene Delany-Ullman is a native Californian, and received her MFA in English from the University of California, Irvine. She formerly worked as a technical writer for the Boeing Company and Impulse Research, a public opinion and marketing research firm. Her book of prose poems, Camouflage for the Neighborhood, was the winner of the 2011 Sentence Award, and published by Firewheel Editions in January 2013. In addition, she has most recently published creative nonfiction and poetry in AGNI 74, Cimarron Review, Zócalo Public Square, Platte Valley Review, Naugatuck River Review, Chaparral, and Burnside Review. Her poems have been included in recent anthologies such as Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer’s Disease (Kent State University Press, 2009) and Alternatives to Surrender (Plain View Press, 2007). Delany-Ullman received a research grant awarded by the International Center for Writing and Translation at UC Irvine, and has twice attended residencies at the Vermont Studio Center. As one of the founding committee members of the Casa Romantica Reading Series in San Clemente, California, Delany-Ullman helped organize and host monthly poetry and fiction readings for six years. She currently teaches composition at University of California, Irvine.