The Child is the father of the Man

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Statement: The Child is the father of the Man

by Kathryn Jacobi

In William Wordsworth’s poem, My Heart Leaps Up, the line “The Child is the father of the Man” opens a universe of metaphoric visual possibilities.

In his surreal novel, Invitation to A Beheading, Vladimir Nabokov writes of a “photo-horoscope,” a device using a process by which a portrait photograph is manipulated into a series of images representing the subject from the cradle to “the final horizontal.”

The theme of memory, transformation, and continuance over the life cycle has been a constant thread of fascination for me over more than 40 years as a working artist. As both a painter and photographer I’ve depicted people in every stage of their lives, singly and in families, and continue to believe that the inner life is reflected in external signs: how we age, how the child becomes the old man or woman, what remains vital throughout a life.

I am especially intrigued seeing parents’ faces and bodies combine to morph into their childrens’, the process continuing through generations, leaving intact remnant imprints of the progenitor on grandchildren and beyond. To me, this continuance is invariably life affirming and very, very touching.

This series, The Child is the father of the Man, depicts the older adult in combination with an image from his/her childhood, sometimes singly and sometimes with resembling family members. It takes me aback how little we change: the babies and children so accurately predicting their future visage and posture is almost uncanny. In the same way as I age and see my mother in the mirror looking back at me, I look at her portrait as a child and see her, but see also both my grandmother and my grandchildren. These portraits resonate with connection for me, and I compose and layer each final image until that connection— between mortality and memory—at least in my eyes and heart—becomes palpable.