The Mylio Grant: Memories and Stories

Past Winner

The Things We Leave Behind

Ana V Ramirez - California, USA

Material possessions are a staple of modern life; on our travels and throughout our lives we collect things. But these things aren’t just things for some of us; every object has a multitude of feelings and memories that go with it. When my mother died she left me a lot of things – beautiful things. The Things We Leave Behind is a project that explores the beauty of what my mother left me by creating still life images that go beyond the object to something deeply personal.

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In the end, her cancer progressed quickly and I had to pack up her belongings and put them in storage. There was no time to sort through anything then, nor was I in the right frame of mind to do it. But I couldn’t discard everything, either. I had to know what was there.

Several years after her passing, I reached a point where I was able to look through everything and decide what to keep and what to donate. During that process I have discovered lots of little treasures such as hand-written notes and old photos. Rather than simply keeping the special things, I decided to create something new with them.

The Things We Leave Behind is a project that honors the memory of my mother with still life photographs of the things she left me. Each object in the composition has a significance: a memory, a story, a trip somewhere, something that she loved or that she created.

The fabrics are from what she collected over the years and used to sew handbags. I didn’t iron them or finish the edges as a way to represent how I feel about her life ending so soon. The organic things such as fruit and feathers symbolize the impermanence of life—a concept I still struggle to accept. I included rusted metal for the passing of time, keys and locks for secrets, photographs that reveal glimpses of the past, religious texts with underlined passages, notes, jewelry, and any other objects that I found interesting. Every object is a little piece of her life.

The composition of my still life arrangements is influenced by my floral design style, something I developed during the years that my mother and I owned a flower shop. I seek balance and stability in the photographs to contrast my grief which is so unbalanced and unpredictable.

The main goal of this project is to create something beautiful with my mother’s things—something that we can both be proud of. At the same time, the process helps me to untangle my emotions and to appreciate what we shared.

I plan to use the grant funds to continue the work, and to create a book with the images and stories of her. I would also like to print the photos so that I can participate in either a small solo show or a group show.

It seems trivial—holding on to material things this way. After all, she left me intangible things that are much more valuable than “stuff”. Yet they are a connection to her, her life, and our relationship. Creating these images helps me to work through my grief. I would give anything to have her here with me but all I have left are the memories of our time together and the things she left behind.



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