Nostos Algos


 Nostos algos, ancient Greek for homecoming + pain, is the etymology of nostalgia.  This pain hit me by force when I returned to Birmingham Alabama, my birthplace and childhood home for my 50th high school reunion.  I was struck by my own and my classmates' lack of knowledge about and indifference to our apartheid existence and the civil rights movement during our high school years.  I began to explore my personal narrative in relationship to the settlement of my family, who became slave-holding planters, in Shelby County Alabama.  I first thought of my ingrained image of the white Southern psyche, with its roots in the past and in the land, its values of honor, loyalty, and gentility, its sense of loss, and its embrace of death.  I then considered its underside of suppression, misogeny, and violence. I became obsessed with trying to understand my own ignorance and distance from the struggle of Black people in the South and to acknowledge my own and my family's racism and cultural values.   

For Nostos Algos, I fired decals of photographs from family and archival sources onto plates sourced from thrift stores.  Family photographs provide a personal narrative that intertwines with the archival historical images from civil war Alabama to the present.  Digital prints, with kudzu as a theme, focus on the obscuring and suffocation of political events.  Fabricated postcards with my handwritten messages show my complex relationship to Birmingham and the South.

12-28 SS Nell Gottlieb - Alabama Plate Installation copy.jpg