Most of my independent work deals with human storytelling tropes from folklore and mythology that appear in global cultures. The name “Nostalgia Purgatory” comes from the title of my graduation degree project at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD Sculpture ‘18) and exhibited at our final class cohort gallery showing, “Something Worth Stealing”. My piece was about themes of death, and asked the audience the question, “how would you feel if this moment was the end of your life?”, followed by prompting the participant, “now as you leave Nostalgia Purgatory, you are given a second chance to live”.
The audience experience follows a linear themed floorplan. The first section they experience is titled “your funeral”, a room with funeral parlor folding chairs set up, with a central aisle leading to a pinebox coffin standing upright. This standing coffin is a doorway, the “threshold of death”, which the participant opens, enters, and closes on themselves. This leads them to a hallway made of woven wood read, which I sculpted to give the impression of a transition to the underground. The woodreed becomes a short hallway of doors. Each door has a peephole or a keyhole to peer through, and a miniature diorama of the room behind the door. Each of the dioramas is based on an archetype found within classic tarot cards. At the end of this short hallway, the final room of the experience reveals itself: “Nostalgia Purgatory”. This liminal space is the caretaker of things that still exist but are forgotten or antiquated in the minds of the living. In this room, a large wooden glass display cabinet showcases a collection of uranium glassware, a vanity with a half silvered mirror is covered in cigarette cards from the 19th century featuring shadowgraph hand-puppets. To the left, Cab Calloway’s “St. James’ Infirmary Blues” is emanating from an Edison Home Phonograph. The last feature of this room is the reader of cards. In the 2018 showing of this piece, Jen Valentino played the part of the ethereal medium of this space. Keeping the death card up her sleeve, she gave each participant a unique reading, talked with them about their lives, the memories and regrets each one may have should this be their untimely end. At the end of this moment, the reader gives them another chance to enter the realm of the living, and the blue velvet curtains to return to the gallery are drawn.