Sally Schluter Tardella, “Faucet”

Exterior view

Detail, pages 8-10

Detail, pages 14-16

Detail, pages 20-22

Detail, pages 23-25


Sally Schluter Tardella (Bloomfield Township, MI)

Ink, white-out, color pencil, and photographs of faucets on paper
Unique work
28 pages
8 x 135″ open
8 x 5″ closed

Memory palace is a visualization system used to organize and recall information, tracing back to the Ancient Greek poet Simonides, who was able to identify bodies of the dead at a banquet when a building collapsed by visually recalling the banquet’s seating arrangement. In this mnemonic method, data is stored in particular locations in a building and retrieved when that place is visualized. Taking liberties with this model, I am building my own memory palace — an imaginary and evolving house consisting of paintings, drawings and artist books–architectural markers for this imagined space. As I revisit, reconstruct and alter personal stories, I use “house” as a metaphor to reflect on issues of gender and body, sociocultural conventions and practice.

Each Memory Palace painting included in this entry refers to a multiple-room space. For example, “Boudoir” invokes a bygone era of private dressing rooms with their trappings of sensuality and intimacy. In “Interior” figures emerge from and dissolve into the paint. Its blood-red palette also suggests interior of body–an organic space filled with viscera and fluids. In “Dollhouse”, dots, dashes and spirals record the play movement of children as they project their own expectations of perfect domestic life onto dolls and furniture. “Dollhouse” is a reference to both personal memories and a reflection on the nature of societal expectations for domestic bliss, a pronouncement carried in the stains that reference spoil and urination. The paintings in Memory Palace are augmented autobiographies — altered maps of specific locations in my memory. I was there. Was I there? I examine the terrain of a remembered room, walking and flying through it, seeing the elevation and floor plan views. Working from above, I rub a layer of color with my hands into the canvas as I move around the worktable. There is a synchronized communication between touch — my hands — and the physical surface of the canvas, the visible color and marks. I mark the paintings with transparent layers of fulvous liquid suggesting soil and stain.

The artist books of my memory palace are single edition, each consisting of one continuous drawing–an unfurling of images and writing covering 28 pages. My working process for the books is quite different than for the paintings. Unlike the paintings, the books are portable; I bring them to the library, my job, and to my kitchen table. My process reflects the visual cacophony of domestic life. As I translate my stories into visual form, I explore the communal expectations that define my experience as a woman and as an artist. I first plan the entirety of a book and transfer research notes and personal stories to the back pages. On the facing pages I combine photocopies, ink, whiteout, gouache and color pencils, beginning my layered multi media drawing praxis. In each book I use a specific agent to reference a personal memory or comment on a particular socio-cultural phenomenon. “Floor” for example is a study of tile and linoleum patterns, a banal subject, remembered and imagined from my past residences. The continuous codex presents floor up close, the way it is seen from a crawling position–cleaning on hands and knees perhaps. In “Faucet” I reference the common domestic tool that provides water through a pipe. As the tap controls the release of pressure and the temperature of the liquid, “Faucet” is ripe with sexual innuendo. “Road” suggests a path leading from one place to the next. I deconstruct the visual language of a road–double yellow lines, dashes, stones–to make a new route, a recollection from the landscape of my childhood and a reference to the dirt road I live on today.