by charlene roth


"The collection replaces history with “classification,” with order beyond the realm of temporality. In the collection, time is not something to be restored to an origin; rather, all time is made simultaneous or synchronous within the collection’s world."

—Susan Stewart, On Longing (1993)

Public art, often monumental, has long been used as a means to memorialize, maintain memories of individuals, ideas and events that are important to local and national societies. Examples are as ancient as Stonehenge, Native American burial mounds and the stele (stone slabs sometimes marked with carvings or paint and thought by archaeologists to be the first grave stones) scattered around the world. More recently-proof that the public art rite is alive and well-large, traditional, sculptural memorials are sited on most street corners in Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo while other, more contemporary examples of commemorative are embedded into the sides of buildings and molded into the sidewalk. Most serve as reminders of losses that occurred as a result of the Japanese internment camps in the U.S. during World War II, but some are meant to elicit ideals and to cross bridges into the here and now without losing sight of the past. These memorials offer cautionary tales as well as commemoration, solace and pardon. As a group, humans seem to require/desire outsized public objects that can be seen, touched, or meditated upon; signifiers that keep memories and, in some cases, restore ideas within the consciousness of a populace.

Perhaps, because the subject is likely to demonstrate the effects of a change in traditions before the state, maintaining private memories and memorials are another issue all together. The longing of individuals for lost family members, customs and ideals is increasingly without a dependable, a ritualized, format for succor. The complications of a mobile society, a lack of generation spanning spiritual systems, and the increasing use of cremation rather than burial as a means to dispose of the dead, has left a void for many that is difficult to address. Cemeteries are more than a place to stow the dead. They are a collection of dead that span time constraints and permit private commemoration in the form of markers and stones and crypts (the crypts of New Orleans come to mind) and a place for families to assemble and honor memories so as to assuage grief but also, like public memorials, to keep memories healthy. However, an ever-enlarging group of the population has lost this resource. Their dead are in cemeteries in other countries, or other states, or were cremated. In too many cases, spiritual systems do not address these trends. Therefore, commemoration and closure are lost, leaving a hold in the fabric of personal memory remains. It is into this difficult gap that Jane Brucker has stepped with her recent exhibition, Cherish.

Eighty-eight objects make up Memorial Project-White (2001-2005). These found and donated articles of clothing in various shades and tones of white include shirts, dresses, pants, skirts, underwear, sheets and blankets. Many of the articles feature style elements popular with earlier generations and most are discolored-the whites yellowing and the delicate fabrics abrading with age. Each garment is neatly stretched over small rectangular panels of equal size and hung side by side in four rows of twenty-two. The panels form a large grid-every cell is an element in a collection of references to anonymous subjects. Taken as a whole, Memorial Project-White becomes a monumental memorial to the fragile mundane, the everyday losses suffered by uncelebrated people. This work, like Chalice (2004-2005), another collection piece comprised of a series of wine glasses on shelves displayed in various degrees of slumping, is a straightforward, yet elegant, breathtaking and heartbreaking memorial to private (as opposed to public) grief. And, because these are anonymous collections, there are no fixed origins or time frames; a point of entry is open for everyone wishes, or needs, to remember.

CHARLENE ROTH’S review of Jane Brucker’s exhibition at Newspace Gallery appeared in ARTWEEK December 2005/January 2006, pg. 17.