by Kurt Simonson
Published November 2015 by Flash Powder Projects
Northwoods Journals pieces together a disconnected family narrative that is marked by secrets, weathered by seasons, colored with dry humor, and haunted by death. The work forms a lyrical and strange family album, a collection of photographs that speaks to the complex merger of myth and memory that I've encountered as I seek to establish my own sense of place, story and identity.
Artist Statement for the project:
I must have been ten or eleven years old when I first ran across the peculiar envelope that bore my grandmother’s shaky handwriting: “not to be opened until my death.” Tucked in her top dresser drawer amidst other valuables, its striking phrase burned into my memory at a young age. I don’t know exactly when, and I don’t know how often, but I know I visited the envelope numerous times, pondering what could be inside. What could be so important (or tragic) that it must be kept secret in this way?
I left Minnesota nearly twenty years ago, and yet it has never left me. The images in this project are artifacts of the myths and memories that have distressed me, challenged me, and shaped me. Most of all, there is that envelope. I have never been able to shake the hold that piece of paper had over me. More than just a letter—I was haunted by what it represented. Loaded with latent meaning, yet withholding its story, that envelope is my experience of growing up in Minnesota. Northwoods Journals is largely about bearing the weight of secrets, living with the tension of things unknown, and searching for a different way forward.