Welcome to Memento Vitae, a dusty shelf of tales, antiques, and fantasies.
The idea for this project first came about in a treasure shop in Trinidad, CO. The place was stuffed to the rafters with ephemera, from ebony chinchilla fur coats and 1940s press cameras to 3D viewer stereoscopes complete with 100 sepia-toned images. It was a wonderland of nostalgia and dust. The proprietress told me stories of the old European coal miners with black lungs who lived mysteriously long lives of dignity and style. They labored in the dirty hollows of the Raton Basin and spent their savings on tailored coats and fine wool hats. They were proud and elegant.
Listening to the shopkeeper’s words, I wished I could experience the memories of all the curious odds and ends crowding the shelves. What stories they could tell! But since I’m not clairvoyant and the objects I found couldn’t speak, I decided to make up scraps of history for them.
Whereas memento mori are items or images that serve as reminders of human mortality (grinning skulls, candles at wick’s end, falling sands in an hourglass), memento vitae are reminders of life. From chipped porcelain teacups to cracked silver looking glasses, the trappings of the quotidian existence can tell so much about who we are, where we’ve been, and what we’ve loved. My hope for this project is to give new life to unique objects by letting my imagination resurrect the spirits of their pasts. Read on.