The artist Lauren Sandoval takes us on a special journey through the America:
I just moved back to LA from Atlanta where I was working in the Art Department on a feature film for seven months. I was born and raised in LA and consider myself an LA-based artist, but before Atlanta I was living and studying Art & Design in England for three years.
This series came about when I drove across the country with my mom and the entire contents of my apartment packed into my raggedy, beat-up Prius. My original intention with this project was simply to document the trip for myself as a memento to a week spent just me and my mom. I feel that, very generally speaking, we tend to spend more time with our paternal family members. This trip was really the first time I got to explore my mother’s family, and my mom, with adult eyes.
One of the aspects of photography that I find most compelling is that in its nature, it is an attempt at possession. We take photographs to turn an intangible moment; a special day or a unique experience; into a tangible one: something we can look back on and cherish or show someone as proof. For this reason, I shot this entire series on disposable cameras so that I could print them 5×7 and put them in a little box under my bed and treasure them like a child because, to me anyway, these photos are a physical reminder of an unrepeatable time with my mom. Ironically though, I did not take one photo of my mom on this trip. I was more focused on documenting the physical places than I was on capturing the ‘essence’ of the trip or our presence within these places.
On our way out of Nashville, we stopped in Memphis to tour Graceland. It was the campiest, most hilarious two-hours of our trip and it broke us down into unstoppable giggles. This was to the great horror of the other Graceland-goers, who were either still in denial or still very-seriously mourning Elvis’ death, which was almost 40 years ago, and prompted intense scowls in our direction. I took no photos on my disposable camera at Graceland because I was too busy giggling.
We spent one afternoon in my mom’s hometown, Royse City, where one of her uncles lives with his family. What I found most surprising was their amazement at seeing us. I got the sense they expected we would never be back after my grandfather died. They talked mostly about their one trip to LA and my grandpa’s funeral. Before we left, we took my mom’s uncle on a secret escapade to the gas station so that he could buy some snuff. It smelled really minty and we examined it like an ancient specimen.
Next, I demanded a two-day detour into the depths of West Texas to see Marfa for my birthday. We didn’t book a hotel in advance, so we stayed in this funny little motel that was run by a young mom with three little boys and a puppy reeking havoc behind the front desk. I had bought this little succulent in a pink pot for my apartment in Atlanta and we had set it outside for some sun during our stay. When the owner came by to bring us some towels she commented absently that she thought it was really cute. An hour outside of El Paso, we realized we had left the little plant behind. We hoped that she kept it as a present from us and it made us happy to think she would get some joy out of it.
photography: lauren sandoval