Title of Work
Date of Work
Art & Design Study Collection
UND Art Collections Repository
Ruth Adams is a photographer and digital artist. She has a BFA in Photography from Rochester Institute of Technology, a BS in Computer Science from Syracuse University, and a MFA in Photography and Digital Art from the University of Miami. Adams currently works as the Associate Director of the School of Art and Visual Studies, as well as an Associate Professor of Art at the University of Kentucky.
A black and white photo of a memorial with the Star of David.
Conversations with the Ancestors
A cemetery is thought of a place for memorializing a loved one, a place to say goodbye, a place for reflection on one’s own mortality. More interestingly, a cemetery is a place to have a conversation with an ancestor, a place to ask for advice or work out a problem. These images invite communication, intervention, questions, and connection. They remind us to take guidance from the wisdom and the energy of the ages.
During my time in Italy and Germany, I became increasingly aware of the importance these countries place on the wisdom of those that came before. In Berlin, for example, the acknowledgement of the realities of WWII is genuine, raw, and ever present. For me, someone of Jewish heritage, the visit to Berlin was intense and life changing. All over Berlin the phrase used isn’t what I grew up with in America:
”6 million Jews were killed in the holocaust”, the phrase is “6 million Jews were murdered in the holocaust”. This simple turn of phrase changed my entire understanding of ownership of one’s past. The Germans aren’t using euphemisms for what happened; they are acknowledging the deeds of their ancestors and learning from them.
The experience I had in Italy was different but also powerful. While visiting cemeteries in Tuscany I began to notice that in the crypts there were often chairs set up in pairs, symbolizing, or maybe actually allowing for, conversation. The implication seemed to be, come in, sit down, and let us share with you our wisdom. In times of such upheaval in the US, the profound connection that these two countries have in their history, and the invitation to learn from it gives me hope that we too can learn from our past mistakes. For as we know “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana).
Conversations with the Ancestors was inspired by these two experiences and the imagery suggests connections to the past.
This photograph was created using 19th century palladium/platinum photographic processes.