Artist Jane Waggoner Deschner has lived in the Rocky Mountain West for many years and came to Surel’s Place from Billings, Montana. Deschner hand embroiders quotations from obituaries into found photographs, also known as vernacular photographs. People may be most familiar with vernacular snapshot collections through such books as “Awkard Family Photos,” but Deschner’s art appeals to something deeper than surface humor. She says of her project that “when I integrate a found photo and a stranger’s words, I tease out a common humanity not confined by time, place or circumstance. I explore our shared human condition to better understand my own.”
Deschner sees a natural connection between obituaries and snapshots. “The obituaries published in local newspapers are written by the those who knew and loved the deceased. The writer often includes an anecdote or two to help the reader connect: ‘He enjoyed a good meal and truthful conversation.’ ‘She accomplished all of her dreams.’ Snapshots and studio portraits are taken out of love to remember people, places and events. Embroidery is a decorative technique, and, when done, stitch-by-stitch by hand, a devotional act.”
Deschner taught a collage workshop at Surel’s Place in March, 2017 and her exhibit “Inexhaustible Invitations” was featured which references a quote from Susan Sontag, known for her essays “On Photography” and as an influential critic. Sontag wrote: “Photographs, which cannot themselves explain anything, are inexhaustible invitations to deduction, speculation, and fantasy.” Deschner invites the viewer on a path of speculation by creating a relationship between the text and photo. “Hand-embroidering texts into photos intimately unites the two. The photos ‘read’ the texts and vice versa.” Through these collages, she expects you will never look at your own family photos the same way again.