but like forever

Recently a friend asked if I collected rocks. My answer was no, but immediately I wished I had, thinking of a lost rock I had picked up years ago in Maine that was exactly palm size. Their question was generous, a potential invitation to visit a place that has natural glow-in-the-dark rocks. In the quick exchange, the idea of collecting rocks took on two meanings: a search for a unique rock to live with and preserve, and the rock as a device to hold a memory or experience.

In Christina Kerns’s exhibition but like forever, she fills the gallery with images/objects that celebrate collecting. Kerns captures items from her life, like a portrait of her dog, a grouping of rabbit’s feet, and landscapes visited. The base criteria for the collection of works in the show are that they are personal, accessible and fleeting. The viewer gains entry into the works through known modes of collection display, with the use of shadow boxes, as well as tourist trap kitsch and popular craft with lenticular images and beaded portraits.

Like in previous work, Kerns looks to how the images she collects can trigger emotional responses and construct identity. In all of the works on view, she transforms the images and objects from their source with a variety of techniques. By overlapping images and adding abstract filters her photographs explore legibility and narrative gestures. Hours beading serve as an act of devotion, and the crystallization of objects is reminiscent of relics. Once complete the beaded portraits and crystalized objects also point to bedazzling and glitter craft projects. Each addition and abstraction to the source material are experiments in preservation, levity, and elevation.

Kerns also relies on formal image compositional devices in her approach to making. Hanging and framing apparatus and substrates are not passive in the works, but serve as tools in image creation. Velvet and colored paper that absorbs light, line the shadowboxes creating a relationship between the objects and the backdrop. The beaded portraits and lenticular pictures are framed in black, defining the edges of the works and directing the viewer inwards cinematically. Treating dimensional objects as images provides Kerns a level of risk-taking within a self-imposed structure.

"Pack of Marlboro Reds," Cigarettes, sodium borate, Color aid 11" × 14" 2019

"Wish Bones," Chicken and Turkey wish Bones, sodium borate, velour 8" × 10", 2019

"Rabbit’s Feet," Artificial rabbit’s feet, sodium borate, Color aid, 9" × 12", 2019

"Theo," Plastic jewels on adhesive, 12"× 8", 2018

"Jack," Plastic jewels on adhesive, 17" × 23", 2018

"Jack (detail)," Plastic jewels on adhesive, 17" × 23", 2018