Having a family history in New England dating back to the 17th Century, Nikki Segarra was eager to explore her past when she moved to Massachusetts after growing up in the South. Grabbing her camera, she set out to explore the coastline where her mother grew up. “I wanted to construct my own experiences within these same locations, perhaps as a way to make my mark on the familial map.” From there, Segarra’s project expanded into an investigation of her maternal ancestry, eventually becoming the series entitled A Mariner’s Descendant.
I began to use historical documents as reference points for my locations. What I found were several patterns that seemed to repeat: a namesake, the life of a mariner, and particularly reoccurring documentations of ancestors who have drowned. It was this idea of patterns, whether deemed coincidence or fate, that I wanted to explore.
These patterns revolve around distance and loss, and Segarra imbued her portfolio with the stoicism of New England sailors. The simple compositions and empty landscapes suggest past lives filled with hardship.
While many artists would be content to tell a story such as this, for Segarra it was important that this series to also have a personal connection to herself and her family. “For this series it was important for me to be the subject. This active role is what emotionally connected me with this work. I’m interested in the idea of inherited behaviors or thoughts and the series became a personal investigation of that idea.”
The layers of meaning that result are an interesting exploration into Segarra’s perceived family history in terms of fears, such as her own admitted phobia of water, and the common actions of her ancestors in this coastal environment. As can be seen in images like Failure to Communicate, the end result presents a dialogue between Segarra and her New England roots.
A Hopeful Transport
This series was created by salt printing, one of the early methods of photographic printing. Despite the antique process, Segarra has found that she is part of the growing movement of photographers returning to early chemical methods. “I think some artists are becoming more interested in photography as a handmade object and are really embracing the imperfections that are the very nature of alternative processes.”
Each of Seggara’s images are unique and handmade. She views this as an achievement in itself, and hopes to continue to make work she is happy with while building a dedicated and appreciative following.
Nikki Segarra’s series, A Mariner’s Descendant, by will be on view at The Kiernan Gallery July 18 - August 25, 2012.