Toi et Moi

Protegida: Auvergne-Toi et Moi | Watched Over: Auvergne-You and Me

A photographic installation with sound

With this series, I journey across the Atlantic Ocean into Europe’s history, in a search for clues that will help me establish correspondences between the past and the present, the distant and the near, the actual and the imagined, the personal and the public. In doing so, I discover links between peoples and places apparently disconnected. But as I examine the strangely familiar outlines of the Auvergnac volcanos on my photographic proof sheets, I realize that nothing is so easily separated; nothing, so easily forgotten; nothing, so neatly kept within its borders.

The little town of Le Mont-Dore gave refuge to my mother when she was two years old in Nazi-occupied Vichy France. Recently I treaded through its rugged landscape photographing fast-moving, opaline clouds that filtered light onto its broken horizon line. As I photographed, I carried two small, nearly indistinguishable, red rocks in my camera bag, one Auvergnac, the other Salvadoran. I wondered, and I still do, how coincidental could it be that my mother chose to settle in a land whose volcanic contour mirrored the place of her childhood refuge.

Who would have thought, after more than 50 years, that a small village in the Auvergne region would resonate to anyone outside of France’s borders? Personal histories, when unearthed and re-stated, have an uncanny echo. In our world of unprecedented migration, these echoes travel great distances. Often, they go unheard or, being distant, they become indistinguishable against the noise of the proximate. Through my work, I now hear these echoes distinctly, and being distinct, they have become insistent.

As a result of my close scrutiny of period photographs from Poland and from France, and of handwriting scribbled across postcards bearing the Vichy stamp, scenes from another time serve as a counterpoint to images of the present. The photographs, printed on the remnants of linens belonging to my maternal grandmother, constitute a dialogue.