The Memory Closet
Upon entering houseguest and taking in the works that comprise The Memory Closet by Amelia Briggs, a perplexing sense of familiarity washed over me. Each of the works, their shape and color vaguely recalling objects from my childhood, began to tap into fuzzy memories buried deep in my subconscious. The artist and I, though both from middle America, grew up in different locations and are nearly ten years apart in age—and yet, each of us are transported back to our youth by viewing or creating the work. By tapping into a collective sense of nostalgia, Briggs shows that we share a visual language that transcends age, geography, and background.
Briggs’s colorful pieces are difficult to decipher at first glance, further disrupting expectations and the viewing experience. The artist uses fabric, polyfill, and faux fur to create undulating, textured surfaces, then adds playful color with layers of paint. Many of her colors schemes feature soft, pastel tones, signifying youthfulness. Existing somewhere between painting, fiber art, and sculpture, her artwork inherently resists categorization. Equally ambiguous are the forms of her pieces: while a few works are triangular or square, most are irregular in shape. Works such as Responsibility (2018) and Face Forward (2018) have gentle ombres that transition across the fleshy folds of the fabric. Others, including Myth (2017) and Life on Land (2018), feature blotches of vibrant color and energetic lines that are reminiscent of plastic kiddie pools. Easiest (2018) stands out as the most representational of the bunch, bearing verisimilitude to a blanket with ruffles; looking at this piece, I am immediately transported to my grandmother’s house and a decorative blanket hanging over the back of a couch. The abstraction employed by Briggs leaves the work open-ended enough for viewers to create their own connections.
By strategically employing color schemes and ambiguous forms in her work, Briggs searches for what she describes as “a jolt of familiarity, one that treads a line between comfort and provocation, reality and dream.” The exhibition allows for a temporary escape back to childhood as our memory is triggered by the soft, painted sculptures. Although nostalgia is a powerful emotion, it has been derided both historically and contemporarily; in the past, it was thought to be an indicator of depression, while detractors, both young and old, often criticize millennials of living in the past. Building upon cross-cultural research from Constantine Sedikides and others, Tim Adams argues, “Nostalgia is shown to be both a driver of empathy and social connectedness, and a potent internal antidote for loneliness and alienation.” Furthermore, it allows for some individuals to escape, if only momentarily, the often bleak state of the world in favor of pleasurable memories. Through her work, Briggs provides a vehicle for nostalgia and interconnectedness.
Positioned in a residential area in South Louisville, visiting houseguest is quite different than any NuLu or even Portland art space—walking up the steps and into the gallery almost feels like visiting a relative. Placing the work in the context of domesticity engenders a unique experience for viewing The Memory Closet. Perhaps this allows us to disconnect with the present on another level, priming the viewer for Briggs’s exploration of childhood nostalgia.
Briggs’s work poses an open-ended question that is simultaneously extremely simple and endlessly complex: what do you see? Her vibrant, bloated forms, though nonrepresentational, jar forgotten childhood memories. As the artist statement reads, “Beginning in childhood, we animate toys in order to give ourselves what we desire most, forming bonds with objects.” A more important bond, perhaps, is between other humans; The Memory Closet allows viewers to initiate a conversation about nostalgia, demonstrating our shared experiences and visual language.
The Memory Closet is on display at houseguest until September 8.
houseguest is located at 2721 Taylor Boulevard, Louisville, Kentucky 40208 and open Saturdays 10am-1pm or by appointment.
- Amelia Briggs
- Adams, Tim. “Look back in joy: the power of nostalgia.” The Guardian, November 9, 2014.
- Kerr-Keller, Reid. “Stuck In The Past: Why Millennials Can't Let Go Of The 90s.” Elite Daily, May 7, 2014.
Kevin Warth, Contributor to Ruckus
Face Forward (2018).