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Artist Journal: Klea McKenna

The San Francisco artist documents creating No Feeling is Final (2020)
under the confines of Shelter in Place and the COVID-19 pandemic

Artist Statement

This work began as an experiment in how to make photographic art while at home with two small children, during San Francisco’s Shelter-in-Place order early in the pandemic.

I began making cameraless photographs (photograms) on the roof of our apartment using the limited materials available to me and the fading effect that sunlight and time inflict on fugitive ink colors. I use old handkerchiefs as my negatives. They are artifacts of personal health and hygiene; intimate objects that have each been carried by someone and absorbed their body’s fluids: snot, sweat, and tears. In another era, the gesture of offering your handkerchief was a way of expressing compassion for someone else’s suffering.

As the pandemic unfolds and the quantity of images increases, I have begun to see them as representing a growing crowd of individuals. The expansive grid of images is akin to the charts and graphs I check daily, each time confronted by the limitations of perceiving human experience through statistics. In contrast, the handkerchiefs become ever more imperfect and corporeal – worn, dyed black to block the sun and then faded by exposure to it, their wrinkles and folds become smoky stains. This transformation conjures rituals of mourning. The handkerchiefs are both the source of the images and the remains of the process – shadow skins of the pictures they made.

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