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I am fascinated by the intersection of history and nostalgia. Perhaps I am mostly fascinated by nostalgia, and by nostalgia I mean the edited view of the past. It is not that nostalgic views of the past are inherently incorrect, but rather that they may be incomplete. In their incompleteness the complications of life are lost. Recounting the past with all of its complication is difficult, if not impossible.

In this exploration of nostalgia I have taken postcard images from my grandmother's collection as settings for queerness before Stonewall. These postcards are images of places that are absent a story, ready for the writer to record the story to be sent by post as a message to family, friends, and loved ones. The postcards she saved included those she received from loved ones on their travels and journeys. They also include a conspicuously blank series of images, presumably purchased on her own travels with unfulfilled intentions of writing to loved ones about her own travels. This collection is a vastly incomplete representation of her postcard diaries, sent and received, throughout her life. It is nonetheless a window into her relationship with travel through my nostalgic lens.

In Postcards From the Middle I have portrayed a nostalgic view of gay history before the activism that led to Stonewall brought gay identity into broad visibility. I have mined the digital archives of photographic images made publicly available by One Inc through the USC archives. I have selected images based on their content, compelling character, and story. These images imagine the untold stories of joy experienced by gays in the past. The lives of gays of that time were more than assimilated into history. They were erased.

Artist Statement for Postcards From the Middle, 2014

Samuel Hanson Willis