Date of Award

Summer 8-14-2020

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)




Nathaniel B. Aldrich

Second Committee Member

Amy O. Pierce

Third Committee Member

Peter Precourt


My artistic practice and family genealogy create the opportunity for a change in the perception of family history. I seek to illuminate and reframe family history and definitions of self while exploring an alternative to, or an addendum to, the patrilineal model of genealogy. Using the photographs and information gathered from my matrilineal bloodline and my preconceived definitions of self, I have created artworks that are places-of-memory. The places-of-memory, sometimes locations, sometimes objects, or sometimes the interaction with objects in an environment, provide an opportunity for discussion regarding the omitted or dismissed nature of the matrilineal line. This paper outlines the theoretical background of family history and identity, using photographs as methodology.

In analyzing my family photographs, I have found I can use photographs as a tangible grounding for exploring abstract concepts such as memory and transgenerational family dynamics. Providing examples of my artwork and the work from a selection of my contemporaries, I show photographs used as a prompt for conversations and the impetus for my artistic practice.

The visual components of this thesis work consist of seven portraits of my matrilineal bloodline. The organization of my artwork is modeled after the photo album while managing to challenge the traditional book-bound layout. In place of a book-style format, rendering the work in mediums such as cyanotype, resin molded into cube shapes, and 24inch x 36inch film-negatives creates a new arrangement of the photo album.

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