Eighty pocket watches hang on a wall, but in place of hands each watch’s face displays a human silhouette set behind cloudy, scratched glass. Like lockets or cameo necklaces, these old-fashioned objects preserve time rather than mark it, evoking memories and the past. The pocket watches make up Ephemera, an installation inspired by artist Jen Blazina finding her grandfather’s watch after he passed away.
Eschewing the straightforward photo album, Blazina, who studied photography and printmaking, combines glass and screen printing with found objects to explore memory. Pocket watches culled from thrift stores, yard sales, and flea markets gain a personal significance for the artist, as she screen prints silhouettes of her friends and family into each one. Despite sharing them with viewers in an installation, the use of silhouettes instead of photographs emphasizes memory as an individual experience, while the rough texture of the glass adds a layer of nostalgia. “Discarded objects as well as ones passed down to me by my family, become personal keepsakes and icons of the past, which would otherwise be overlooked or regarded as something useless,” writes Blazina in her personal statement. “My collections represent a sense of holding onto a place in time.”
Rather than silhouettes, Blazina’s glass panels incorporate family photography as a way to explore memory, time, and nostalgia. Writing for the Women’s Studio Workshop blog, where she completed Ephemera during a 2008 summer residency, Blazina notes,“My grandfather was an amateur photographer who documented our family’s history. My grandmother told family stories using his images as a reference point.” She screen-prints the images onto cast glass, using photographs of houses, retro cars, and boats to create ethereal pieces that evoke pinhole photographs and Japanese ink paintings.
Blazina found additional inspiration from her grandmother’s fashion sense. She writes on the WSW blog, her grandmother “was also a great shopper and dressing was an art form for her. As a young girl I would try on her outfits, play with her purses, and search through her button box. I have always wanted to work on a piece dealing with the lost art of women’s accessories and dressing. I started to find antique purses and knew then that this was the avenue that I wanted to pursue.” Transience emerged, an installation of cast glass vintage purses that Blazina found in thrift stores. Like the pocket watches in Ephemera, the purses lose their original function, instead causing viewers to contemplate the person behind the glass and the objects the purse could have once held.
IF YOU GO: “Ephemera”Through August 31Paxton Gate766 Valencia StreetSan Francisco, CA 94110Website: www.paxtongate.com