Linda R. James

Eleanor from FBI File Series (2019)
acrylic and pastel on gessoed paper
30.5 x 22.75 in.

A quote from Roland Barthes: “Myths are not lies, they are the stories we tell ourselves.” I have long been fascinated with the how and why of the stories we tell ourselves, especially those of history. Equally, I am keenly sensitive to the post-modern questioning of who gets to tell these stories, who determines the “truth” of things. We are now more cognizant than ever that, in the past, it was those in power who told the stories.

In thinking about myth, truth, and power, I began a series of art works in 2014 based on appropriated pages from the FBI on-line vault. From the outset, I focused on the redactions in these pages as a visual form. After all, redaction is eminently recognizable and rife with meaning. Until recently, redaction was literally the mark of the hand of power.

In using the redaction as an aesthetic strategy, I am exerting my creative power to transmute and transform acts of surveillance and subterfuge. I am evoking the Abstract Expressionists whose works resisted the propagandizing of the 1950s. I am thinking of the philosophers, Heidegger and Derrida, and their concept of “sous rature” where meaning is deferred and erased but always retains a trace of what was before. I am challenging myself to cultivate an intuitive reaction to these FBI files using color. In the end, I am taking a dark subject and wielding my own hand of power.

© Linda R. James