Friess, Nicki
Major Professor
Steven Herrnstadt
Committee Member
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Art and Design

This exploration is to learn how to use today’s digital tools to recreate my still life objects in digital 3D space so I can carry them with me in my travels. The portable drive will in a way emulate the medicine bag of sacred objects. These are my sacred objects: remains of possessions, of ancestors and family members who have passed on; Toys my children and dead wife and passed away uncles once played with, bones of animals I have chanced upon in my walks, old tools and corroded plumbing fixtures…all the debris that clutters one’s life and journey, objects that I can’t let go of. Yet also objects that bog me down, objects that cling to me as briars. They cling as memories cling. And I cannot shake them off without erasing who I am. So I shall possess them, and they shall possess me, until I die. They will always either be with me or in storage. For I need them and they need me, to exist. But I am at a stage in life (66) where I want to travel. Yet I want my objects with me. So I am recreating them as my Virtual Still Life Assemblage Studio.

A side journey also opened up as I was exploring this process. I am a veteran with chronic PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). It arose from embedded memories and sensations that were buried within my psyche while serving as a Green Beret medic in Vietnam, where I received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. I am also an amputee as a result of injuries sustained there. PTSD casts a shadow upon my work, my life. Though after years of therapy I can escape it on occasion and enter back into the sunlight, it never strays far. It often creates a certain melancholy in the work.

I have during the process of this project decided to confront my demons directly, to look closely at the memories that haunt me, and to allow them to emerge. They too are objects of my memories. They also are my mementos. I and they need to find our pathway to live together. For the virtual world aspect of this project, I recreated a few of the more haunting images that reside within me. Also, I have begun the process of sharing this virtual experience with other veterans with PTSD as a way of acknowledging that we are not alone. And though this imagery is part of our lives, it is not our defining factor. It is just one aspect of our being. And hopefully, by participating in this virtual experience, a dialogue can be opened up, and an acknowledgment, rather than a hiding from, can emerge. And also it is hoped that others will have an opportunity to at least vicariously get a taste of what our world is like.

The title of this project is artIfacs: “art” is the creative process; “I” is the artist, the creator; “facs” is for facsimile, the replica of the original.