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Peterborough

MacDowell Fellow talks about moments in time

Visual artist will discuss work aimed at triggering involuntary memories Friday at MacDowell Downtown

Artist Deborah Aschheim has created the exhibit, "Deborah Aschheim: Involuntary Memories: Marine Corps Air Station El Toro and the Nixon Years at the Great Park Gallery in Irvine.   During her 7-month residency at the Great Park artists studios, she collected personal accounts from visitors of the Nixon presidency and Vietnam to create dozens of hand-drawn illustrations that are now on exhibit at the OC Great Park on May 10, 2013.  ///ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: 5/10/13 - raschheim.0513.KT - Photo by KAREN TAPIA

Artist Deborah Aschheim has created the exhibit, "Deborah Aschheim: Involuntary Memories: Marine Corps Air Station El Toro and the Nixon Years at the Great Park Gallery in Irvine. During her 7-month residency at the Great Park artists studios, she collected personal accounts from visitors of the Nixon presidency and Vietnam to create dozens of hand-drawn illustrations that are now on exhibit at the OC Great Park on May 10, 2013. ///ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: 5/10/13 - raschheim.0513.KT - Photo by KAREN TAPIA

Visual artist Deborah Aschheim, in her first MacDowell Colony residency, likes to engage in “mental time-travel” with her audiences. She says her anthropology background fuels her deep interest in the way the memories are evoked when looking at images of individuals widely perceived as “historical.”

These remembrances and the way they accumulate into a collective memory experienced in public places or at public events has occupied Aschheim’s creative energies for more than a decade. It also has led to her current installation “Involuntary Memories,” which is now on view at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, Calif.

“I made drawings based on very famous photos to trigger involuntary memories in people,” said Aschheim. “If you can remember how old you were or where you were at that moment in history, that’s what I want, those are the stories I’m interested in.”

The artist will share her most recent work in slides and video — and collect memories from the audience — during the next MacDowell Downtown, on Friday at The Monadnock Center for History and Culture at 7:30 p.m.

“The drawings are representational of known people, so almost everybody can relate to those memories,” she said, explaining the installation was created to commemorate the 40th anniversary of President Nixon’s televised resignation on Aug. 9, 1974. It started, she said, as a result of a residency at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif., recently created from the skeleton of the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. The base was used as an airport by President Richard Nixon as he shuttled between the Western White House and Washington. While there, Aschheim held weekly open studios and asked visitors about their memories of Nixon and she drew in pen and ink while the stories were related to her. The installation at the Nixon Library grew out of that and, as she said, “became this sprawling bi-partisan tapestry of community memories of that era.” Her current work has now grown to include the presidencies of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson, told primarily by non-famous people who visited the presidents during their administrations.

She’ll also describe how her interest in Alzheimer’s Disease led to sculptures in which she was “trying to make my neural space into a physical space you can enter.” Originally interested in her own relationship with her mind’s recollections and how they decay over time, Aschheim was the visiting artist at the Memory and Aging Center in the Neurology Department at UC San Francisco Medical School from 2009-2011. Since then she has been working on her “memory series” using sculpture, architectural models, illustrations, and video.

“The work is all over the place,” she said, “but there’s this strand that follows throughout. It’s very interdisciplinary, looking at images, architecture, and taking into account cognitive psychology.”

If you are interested in how different people can share common reminiscences and are curious about the images that seem burned into our collective memory, join us on Friday as visual artist Deborah Aschheim describes and shows her art at The Monadnock Center for History and Culture at 7:30 p.m.

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