78: Nancy Newberry

Nancy Newberry
09 11 19, 2010, from the series "Mum"

Series Statement: Artificial, shiny, spirited and virtually unknown outside of Texas, the Homecoming Mum is an elaborate corsage, or for the boys, a garter worn on the arm. Exchanged between friends, The Mum consists of a large silk flower decorated with long glittery ribbons and other trinkets, which indicate the wearer's interests, social standing, and allegiances to friends. Mums are proudly worn for all activities on Homecoming Friday, and then immortalized as trophies on bedroom walls all over Texas. Each year the collection grows with a more elaborate Mum, marking progress and personal history.

As both adornment and insignia, the Mum offers its wearer the opportunity to promote self-image, while identifying their status an integral member of their particular community. At a time when many American high schoolers seem actively disengaged from the world around them, the Homecoming Mum constitutes both a unique act of cultural immersion, and a specific brand of folk art.

Shot slowly and based on interpretation of memory, I have limited the settings of the photographs to in and around the subject's personal space, to further contain and charge the portraits through confines of the subject's own making.

I have intentionally paired diverse visual language of both spontaneous and carefully arranged moments. This work is a cultural investigation and reflects the chaotic nature of self-identity and the interplay between individuality and social affiliation.

The work highlights the importance of rituals as vehicles of expression. Customs are vital in defining all cultures. The simple existence of the Homecoming Mum is an artifact that is symbolically relevant. It isn’t necessarily important to relate directly to the Mum tradition or to understand why it exists. This photographic treatise serves as an invitation to immerse ourselves in appreciating another culture on a very basic level.

Human existence is a creative act; the mystery is in how we are driven to innovate and engage the unspoken narrative of ourselves.