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drawing on history

“Drawing on History” is one of artist Paulette Traverso’s ongoing bodies of work. Her lifelong passion for vintage photos, the spark of an idea, and access to an unusually large number of images, created the right conditions for what was to become “Drawing on History”.  The initial concept was to work in color on black and white portraits. But as in all journeys, creative and otherwise, Ms. Traverso finds it best to go with one’s intuition.  And so in 2011 began the ink drawings on photos. The first year was dedicated almost exclusively to infants and toddlers. Year two moved into adults and some landscapes. And after five years of black and white, new work is emerging this year with color. 

“Drawing on History” now numbers over 400 drawings on Cabinet Cards, Cartes de Visite, RPPC (Real Photo Post Cards) and early vernacular images. They date from the 1860’s to the early 20th century. Discarded, lost, orphaned. The remains of lives we know nothing about. Ms. Traverso, in discussing her process, says “I look at many, many images, waiting until I feel a connection to a particular one. I then focus on that image and begin an inquiry: Who were you? What became of you? Where did you come from? What kind of energy, story, feeling is expressed? Were you unhappy or is that dour look a convention of the unfamiliar process of having your photograph taken? How did you end up in this box at the flea market? 

I begin a dialogue with them, in that captured moment. The drawing experience is like a jazz improvisation in ink. I stop when the connection ends. It can be one long dialogue or “conversations” over time before the piece is complete. An intimacy develops with the images that creates a palpable bond that I re-experience looking at them, much like the feeling when meeting old friends.”