11 Ways to Forget Someone You Love was inspired by the life of Bette Nesmith Graham (1924-1980), the inventor of Liquid Paper, a type of correction fluid. After her divorce, working as a secretary to make ends meet as a single mother, she came up with an idea for paint to cover up her typing mistakes. The whiteout she created in her kitchen, which she called ‘Mistake Out’, quickly gained popularity among her colleagues. So much so that she was able to turn her homemade recipe into a viable business, thereby regaining control of her life.
I was interested in how Bette overcame adversity and found financial independence through a simple but effective domestic invention. I began to paint over the groom in old wedding photos to symbolise a woman’s ability to erase what she no longer wants in her life. These initial works (one of which is included in the series submitted) made me realise the project was about overcoming grief. Anger, a common but often suppressed stage of the grieving process, can be a motivating and transformative force when expressed creatively.
Developing this idea, I experimented with other ways to erase figures. I remembered how my mother cut my father’s head out of photos both before and after their divorce. This act of destroying a photograph is both violent and cathartic, a form of apotropaic magic; the person removing the figure shifts from a position of helplessness to one of agency. Ironically, this erasure is also darkly humorous, because it draws attention to and magnifies what is lost.
Self-help articles on the internet often bear titles like the one chosen for this series, but of course you cannot literally erase or forget someone you love. Through creative action, however, you can gain agency and a greater sense of control. Acknowledging what is lost and creating something new can propel a person to embrace the hope that a better future is possible and even desirable.