John Tomlinson (left foreground), age 16, 1955, in Geraldine Roy's art class, Reading Memorial High School, Reading, Massachusetts
Private John Tomlinson, U.S. Army Photography School,
Fort Monmouth, NJ 1956
Memory + Oblivion
New York • July 2010
As an artist with a foundation in traditional drawing and art history, I have come to believe that Memory is the driving force of art, with Time as its engine, and Oblivion as its fuel (which will inevitably run out). Memory but not just personal remembrances or the under-surface memories of pain, desire and disappointment from youth, not just biography.
I am addressing the idea of memory as sensory, sensational and sensual, something we share as human beings across all divisions and differences, including historical time. Memory can be a vague silhouette, a whiff of scent, a distant sound, a wave of feeling. It is life lived through light, fragrance, odor, touch soothing, sexual or painful, warmth and cold, dark, sounds and rhythms booming, rustling or harmonic, shapes, colors, objects, voices and whispers, movement, silence, and tastes.
Memory marks the life lived and passing, racing up to the present and shooting past us into forgetting and nothingness. Art can, must, will help us to recall it, to recall it again and hold it, savor it, not as the thing or moment itself but as the memory of its sensation. Art is a principal and powerful agent of memory.
We have to let go of the event, sense or object as we move through time and space, but the work of art is the station, the receptacle, the safeguard, the treasury - and the transmitter - of the memory, of the life lived and the lives shared.
Finally, the power of art lies in its ability to take the viewer to regions where the person cannot otherwise go, allowing the viewer to complete the work of art by creating its deeper meaning in a personal way.