Artist: Michael Honegger

Bittersweet Harlequins
Child's Play
Night on the Town
The Flyboy
The Gladiator

Artist Statement

ANCESTRAL FANTASIES

I have few memories or images of my family ancestry beyond a generation or two. Where did my immigrant grandparents grow up? What did my 28 great uncles and aunts look like in their youth? What were their passions and pursuits? What can these images convey about their lives? In exploring existing family photographs, I realized how much of the record is missing. This project is my effort to seize the initiative in the re-creation of a real and imaginary visual genealogy that combines elements of memory, photographic history and my inspiration. It represents the beginnings of a family album based on a combination of manipulated reality and fantasy.

The work seeks to capture momentary and intimate experiences within the real and fictional lives of my known and unknown relatives. The portraits transcend my memories, both real and imagined of two remarkably different family trees: my father's Swiss origins and my mother's Russian Jewish ancestry. Yet both trees were prolific in producing generations of characters as diverse as my imaginings. I present each of their manipulated portraits in theatrical set pieces that explore their identities and mine. The images present characters in an unfolding drama that the viewer is left to decipher...an intimate glimpse through the curtain of time and memory.

I must also confess that the images explore my own emotional confusion about my origins and the inherent conflicts that the diversity of my family ancestry provoke. Having never felt completely integrated into one branch of the family or the other leaves me in a perpetual state of confusion about my rightful place in the hierarchy. There is a therapeutic quality in creating images that conform to my own confused narrative and in exploring the darker and lighter sides of my unique dilemma. This family theater of comedy and drama gives me the freedom to explore my personal narrative and emotions .

In conclusion, this series was inspired by a paragraph in Susan Sontag's essay "Plato's Cave" in which she wrote:

"As that claustrophobic unit, the nuclear family, was being carved out of a much larger family aggregate, photography came along to memorialize, to restate symbolically, the imperiled continuity and vanishing extendedness of family life. Those ghostly traces, photographs, supply the token presence of the dispersed relatives. A family's photograph album is generally about the extended family --and , often, is all that remains of it."