MARISA PORTOLESE // Antonia’s Garden

Antonia’s Garden (2007-2011)

Recently, the fragility of life in the context of narrative based work has been the focus of my work. Over the past several years, I have produced images, which center on familial themes, the role of the women within this institution, intimacy, autobiography and the complex relationship between mother and child. Focusing on issues relating to identity, displacement, abandonment and maternal mortality, these concerns have been in explored in Antonia’s Garden & Pietà.

In 1953, when my mother was 7 years old she was sent from her native province of Sardinia in Italy to live with her sick aunt in the southern province of Calabria. She left, never to return to live in her childhood home with her immediate family. She suffered immensely from familial abandonment. The complex relationship she had with her mother in which the duality of love and hate were manifested, resulted in a life long ambivalence to express herself and keep silent. Since my mother moved to Canada, she has only ever returned to Italy for visits and holidays with her own family (my father and eventually me). My grandmother is still alive, but bedridden, it is at this juncture in her life that she is finally revealing how she feels about abandoning my mother. Recently, she has asked me to record her revelations in an attempt to redeem herself from past mistakes. This emotionally dramatic yet personal experience has inspired the works I have produced over the last several years.

In Antonia’s Garden, I explore the complex emotional issues surrounding the nature of family. This work comprises of over 35 images made up of staged vignettes of intimately autobiographical familial observations, formally portrayed through the genre of the narrative film still, portraiture, landscape and still life. The photographs consist of composed scenes redolent with rich background stories of domestic life. I have photographed family members that have been caught in quiet moments of reflection, and juxtapose these photographs with domestic spaces, landscape and still life, in effort to reference states of mind and situate the viewer in a geographical and emotional space. This body of work deals with accounts of people living on the boundaries of emotional survival, and is at times about loss and the failure to connect and communicate.

Publisher: UMA, La Maison de l’image et de la photographie
Publication Date: January 14th, 2012
Dimensions: H. 8.75" x L. 11.25"
80 pages
35 photographs
Edition Size: 500
Regular edition 450 copies ISBN: 978-0-9878709-0-2
Deluxe edition 50 copies ISBN: 978-0-9878709-1-9 (in a box which includes an original print signed by artist.)
Introduction by: Manon Blanchette, PH. D Essay by : James D Campbell
Signed on June 11, 2014, Marisa Portolese