The Pensieve

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Meg Branlund, Traces: Erased Photographs

Nostalgia is my fall tonic, mostly because it gives me a reason to light three yellow lamps and lie on my bed, trying to travel Mary Poppins-style into the photo of 1920’s Paris on my wall. How else do you combat the depression of a cold, darkening evening than to sip tea from a blue china cup and flip through photos of Gertrude Stein’s salon?

I guess nostalgia just matches the whole flavor of autumn- nostos is Greek for returning home (or being trapped inside, staring out at the drizzle) and algos means pain or ache.

I felt that same prickle of bittersweet memory when I first encountered Meg Branlund’s Traces, which is tucked like an afterthought into the corner of the Laverne Krause gallery. It’s an old-fashioned gray Tiara trunk with a lit white panel filling its bottom. I kneeled down and basked in its glow, examining the trunk’s strange contents.

As the title suggests, these wispy fragments might be the remnants of old photographs, but any imprint that would spark a true memory has been charred to ashes.
Filling wooden shelves in the top of the trunk is a set of vials, also cradling ashes and stopped with corks.

Is this a traveler’s pensieve a la Dumbledore? A peculiar suitcase whose owner was lost in the shuffle of an airport, never to be identified? The piece strikes a balance between nostalgia and amnesia, treasured memories and ones that are slowly fading away.

I stood up from the gallery floor and blinked, pulling away from the magical glow. Where was I, again?

BONUS FUN: I emailed Branlund. Her response, which is about the twisty path of memory, is on the Talk Back page here.

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