Janet Matthews

May-June 2010 featured Artist


A fragment of music, an aroma that seems familiar, the worn surface of a treasured possession…any of these experiences can prompt memories to surface.

The Retrospection series began with a visit from my sister. She had brought some flea market purchases to show me. I found the objects to be so visually intriguing that I borrowed and photographed them. Having used the idea of layers in previous work, I decided to try digitally layering these images. The results suggested to me the process of forming and recalling memories. As a former teacher, cognitive processes have always fascinated me—how we understand our world, file this knowledge away, recall it, and integrate it with new knowledge.

The process of remembering seems a somewhat mysterious act of organization and reorganization. As we reconstruct an earlier experience, details come into focus, which we then attempt to arrange into a coherent whole. Some emerge as well-defined, while others remain vague. Elements successively fall into place, though never quite filling every gap. Through memory, we build an approximation of a past experience, effectively forging something new from something old.

These images are my attempts to create visual equivalents of this process. The vintage objects that appear suggest connections with the past. The final images are printed in layers of gum bichromate over a cyanotype base. The multiple gum bichromate layers, which incorporate watercolor pigments, add subtle color to the final images. This printing process mimics memory as multiple print exposures build up the final images.

Janet Matthews


Retrospection, Gum Bichromate over Cyanotype