Cast in transparent crystal, a dozen antique purses hang delicately on the wall. They are apparitions of objects called forth from a previous time. Each translucent handbag belies its original function: revealing instead of concealing. Privacy is denied, allowing personal experience to become shared.

Philadelphia artist, Jen Blazina makes memory tangible. Recreating family heirlooms in glass, she orchestrates intricate installations that illuminate the fragility (and mutability) of remembrance. In her work, the relationship between collecting and recollecting is literally made clear.

Highly contrasted family photographs, simplified to black and white graphics, are printed on large glass panels. They function simultaneously as windows and doors. Looking through the abstracted images is peering from past to present, where as much is obscured as revealed. The artist’s intervention, here through silkscreen, preserves a memory while irrevocably altering it. In each generation of retelling, these shared stories translate with less clarity.

In ‘Ephemera,’ rows of eighty pocket watches are silently suspended. Traditional mechanisms for keeping time are removed; cameo portraits replace the hands of the clock with silhouetted faces. ‘Ephemera’ is based on the artist’s experience of finding her grandfather’s timepiece after his passing. Encapsulating memories of people within the things they’ve touched is one way of holding on to them; it is the very idea of ‘keep-sake,’ familial relics that can be passed down through generations.

Cherishing these innate objects, we invite a ghostly inhabitance. Jen Blazina’s recent work reveals that these beautiful specters are ultimately of our own creation. Or to quote another distant voice: it was Emily Dickinson who so aptly wrote, “one need not be a chamber to be haunted.”

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About the Author

Cindy is a Philadelphia-based artist: find out about current projects at