Diana Tamane wields her camera as a means to get to know those closest to her, producing psychological portraits steeped in an alert stillness. In recent years, the artist has turned her lens on her family members’ individual relationships to photography. For instance, Blood Pressure, 2016, collates the backs of family photos that her great grandmother had used to jot down her daily medical information, while Sold Out, 2016, gathers her father’s snapshots of goods he had imported from Central Europe—a lightly-scratched silver Volvo, a Pioneer record player, and a set of standing speakers, displayed next to a bottle of mineral water for scale—with the intention of reselling in Latvia. Tamane’s grandmother compiles albums of floral arrangements, from birthday bouquets to the oversized sculptures of roses and mushrooms that one might find at a garden show or parade. The artist rephotographed the originals, still tucked within the plastic sleeves of their album.
These images now form the spine of Flower Smuggler, 2016-2019, the project that comprises this exhibition. The photographs are accompanied by copies of Russian customs documents, evidence of Tamane’s grandmother’s failed attempt to bring real flowers to the grave of her own grandfather, who raised her in Abrene, a Latvian border region annexed by Russia during World War II. Tamane joined her grandmother on a second trip over the new border, this time armed with an artificial bouquet. A large print of the freshly festooned burial site now covers one wall of the gallery. It faces off against a screen showing a still frame of a single oak, all that remains of their ancestral homestead. To fill in the gaps, the artist had her grandmother draw a map of the former property and recount her memories in the accompanying film, I’ll tell you everything I remember, 2019-2021. Her tales of yellow cucumber blossoms, the neighbors’ strawberries, and the unexploded bomb lodged across the road poignantly capture what can no longer be photographed.