Institute for Conceptual Studies
LANGUAGE | The Wrong
Skyline #1 (2016)
Shelley Chamberlin

I have called the work elegiac. It is an elegy for Skyline as it once was, as it is now changing, an elegy for a season of my life. 

I recently heard that someone who was once a dear friend had died. I didn’t find out until 5 years later. When I heard the news, I immediately felt the need to dig and dive and scour for old photos. Some proof of her once-aliveness. There was one picture in particular I was looking for… and when I found it, it struck me that nothing in the image still existed. Not 26 year old me, not her at all, not the bar or the grape vines trailing up the lattice. My smile in the picture, even, looking strangely like it belonged to someone else. 

This drawing, this charcoal swept from one end of page to the other, these dancing branches, these too will someday become a monument for something that is no more. The glitch breaks and is stitched, breaks and is stitched, breaks and is stitched; it captures tiny moments--incomplete and imprecise moments--of time: its passage, its accrual. It is, in this way, like a painting from life: hours of time collapsed into one image. It is not the brief flash of a photograph, nor is it the way memory becomes an amalgam of years stacked and layered and retraced. 

Trees sweep in a wind that is the car moving. Fence breaks, re-collects, breaks, re-collects. I know the place that is rendered, but it is not just the place; it is the season of that place; it is the time of my life when I pressed my hand against the driver’s-side window as I was passing through. It was a time when being called π‘ƒπ‘Ÿπ‘œπ‘“π‘’π‘ π‘ π‘œπ‘Ÿ was new and novel, when I wore a white cowl-neck sweater and boots, when love was fading, when Skyline was leaving, when these brief things in my life crossed and met and passed through one another and me. Brokenness. Repair. Memory. Elegy. I sometimes jokingly call myself a nostalgia monster; I have always been acutely attuned to life’s passing, keenly aware of the sorrow and joy in that nothing will ever π‘Žπ‘™π‘€π‘Žπ‘¦π‘  𝑏𝑒 π‘™π‘–π‘˜π‘’ π‘‘β„Žπ‘–π‘ . Everything I have ever made is an homage to a particular π‘‘β„Žπ‘–π‘  as it passes through me, through time, as I pass through the season, as I drive through the quiet looping turns and sweeping vistas of Skyline.