"I wonder how the mind decides which memories to keep. There are certain moments you can always return to, never knowing why" -- words from LisÃ©a Lyons' refreshingly succinct artist's statement about her current photography exhibit at Heather Marx Gallery. I once saw a photograph of Lyons' young daughter poised at the edge of a body of water in a way that suggested she could be floating across a lake. Ever since that moment, I've been waiting to see more of Lyons' lyrical work. Something Borrowed is far from disappointing. The show is possibly more touching for those of us who spent time as little girls, skinning our knees, not caring if our perfectly cute dresses got dirty, letting freshly mowed wet grass stick to our bare feet, and having a best friend. These kinds of memories are perfectly preserved in Lyons' untitled photos of her 12-year old daughter, Ramona, who remains fairly anonymous, as only a glimpse of her is revealed in most of the pieces.
My absolute favorite photo was of Ramona dragging a vintage, wooden-dog pull toy that I immediately recognized as identical to a beloved Fisher Price item from my own childhood. The composition of the piece is stunning with a turquoise wall taking up most of the background as Ramona heads out the door, and the frame, with the little dog trailing behind her.
Another enchanting photograph depicts Ramona kneeling over scattered wooden blocks on a white shag rug with an out-of-focus fireplace in the background. Though only glimpses of the girl's knees and long, tangled brown hair are visible, there is a clear sense of concentration. The shots evoke Lyons' clear, yet abstractly vague memories of Ramona's formative years -- in the words of the artist, "the strange summer days where it seemed nothing ever happened."
Mixed in are some nature shots that effectively elicit other strong childhood memories. Remember those tiny, delicious-looking red berries you were warned not to eat due to their seriously poisonous nature? I remember working very hard at avoiding the temptation, and never understood why they were ok for birds to eat but not for people. The work invites the viewer to wonder why we can distinctly remember such things as a dewy pile of wildflowers we collected twenty years ago, but can't remember if we ate lunch yesterday.
Lyon's work lends significance to everyday moments and chronicles Ramona's childhood in a way that is far more glamorous than your average scrapbook or photo album. The photos reveal a seemingly sweet relationship between mother and daughter, and Ramona likely has a healthy college fund due to her mother's success. She appears to be an inspiring and cooperative subject and, if I were Ramona, I'd be asking for a pony right about now.
Something Borrowed is on view through April 28, 2007 at Heather Marx Gallery, 77 Geary Street, San Francisco.