Thursday, May 31, 2012

Memories and Recollections: Autobiographical Imagery



How would you tell the story of your life visually?? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself as this excavation of personal memories as visual imagery continues. Memory is a quirky thing – full of random bits and pieces, some crystal clear and others a bit muddied or vague.  All fuel for artistic inspiration.

My Pittsburgh childhood in the 1950’s holds both urban and suburban recollections. One vivid memory is the streetcar or trolley car. We would dress up and take the trolley downtown to shop at the downtown department stores like Joseph Horne’s, where uniformed elevator operators with white gloves would call out each floor and its products – “Fourth Floor,Ladies dresses, Lingerie”, until we reached our desired destination.




My grandparents ran a lunch counter and soda fountain much like the one shown in this early Pittsburgh historical photograph, called the H & H Dairy Bar. The two H’s stood for Herman & Helen Haupt. Men wore hats, suits and white shirts with ties and women wore stockings with a seam up the back, dresses and high heels every day.

As a young girl, when I visited my grandparents, I slept in the front bedroom of their apartment above their store. The wires for the trolley cars ran level with the second story window ledge. As I lay in bed I could see the sparks fly from the wires as the trolleys sped by and hear the clattering of their wheels on the tracks. The trolleys lulled me to sleep.

I’ve been mining this rich vein of recollections from my personal history and contemplating how they might fit into my work.


  1. Jeanne, what great images! Your words and these pictures brought back uncanny feelings! I grew up in Pittsburgh...well outside in the suburbs, but was in the city a fair amount. I grew up in the sixties, but those streetcars....yes!!! The sounds, the sparks, riding them...all those buried memories came rushing back. I was just telling my library colleagues yesterday about how my friend and I, as 13 year olds, would take the buses into the city and stroll around for the day, in and out of those stately department stores with the elevators and the fancy display windows...all on our own and totally unsupervised. What an innocent time it was!!! I think it is very important stuff you are doing....mining your own history to see how it fits into your one else can do's what makes our work our very own! Cheers and thank you! -- Patti

  2. Your photo of railroad tracks had an ominous portent. It gave me chills. Your comments about your youth and an innocent time have a universality to the experience. I'll be interested to see where this takes you. Take care, my friend.