February 26, 2007
Marshall-Linnemeier’s storytelling through art on view at the Visual Arts Gallery
BY Mary Catherine Johnson
Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier has always been a gifted storyteller. As a young child she created stories and drawings, often with herself as the main character. To have a conversation with the adult Marshall-Linnemeier is to be privy to a bevy of fascinating stories ranging from details of her daily community interactions to myths, legends and realities culled from the oral history of African Americans. To illustrate her stories, she creates works of art that include both digital and traditional forms of photography, as well as painting, assemblage and narrative.
“Collectage: Transcribing Oral Memory” examines the artistic career of Atlanta-based Marshall-Linnemeier, with pieces dating back to 1972 when she was 17. Much of the work in “Collectage” can be described as “illuminated photographs,” a term the artist coined to describe her works that incorporate photography, painting and text to tell the stories of her subjects.
To create her provocative images, Marshall-Linnemeier draws on her academic background, which has afforded her expertise in photography, painting, African American art history and Southern culture, and she does extensive research on her subjects. “The community provides the energy for much of my work,” says the artist. “I use my own personal experience as a basis for transforming the people through my stories and photographs. The individuals I encounter … appear to be practical archetypes of the people who surrounded me during my childhood … I seek to communicate to the viewer the magic of these personal encounters.”
Some primary examples of illuminated photographs in the exhibition come from the artist’s 1994 “Borders of Faith” project in Reynoldstown, Atlanta’s oldest community founded by freed slaves just after the Civil War. Marshall-Linnemeier converted her black-and-white photographs of members of that community into images infused with mysticism, adoration, strength, spirituality and nobility. As Reynoldstown currently faces an influx of both welcome and unwanted redevelopment, these images are a glowing testament to that community’s history and heritage.
“Collectage” also includes many examples of what the artist calls “re-imaginings.” For example, “The Cloud Gatherers” is a juxtaposition of two images: an unaltered photograph of cotton-pickers on a plantation, and the same image with the subjects re-imagined as angels on a delightful mission to gather clouds.
All of the pieces in “Collectage” are on loan from some of the premier art collections in Atlanta. Many of the collectors expressed good-natured dismay at having the work removed from their homes, as if they were being temporarily separated from a member of their family. One collector actually gasped at the moment the illuminated photograph was removed from his wall, explaining that it had become such an integral part of his home that he could hardly bear to see it leave. These collectors have incorporated Marshall-Linnemeier into their lives, as both a friend and a creator of indelible stories of their collective heritage.
“Collectage: Transcribing Oral Memory” is on view at the Visual Arts Gallery, 700 Peavine Creek Drive, through March 10.
For more information: http://visualarts.emory.edu/