The Long Season of Untitled Selves

Frank Rodick
5 min readMay 26, 2018
untitled self, no. 40 / archival pigment print / ©Frank Rodick, 2017

Written in conjunction with the exhibition Untitled Selves: New Work by Frank Rodick, Ryerson School of Image Arts, Toronto, 2018.

It lasted years, not months; and during that long season of falling apart I watched those last waves of stardust sweep through my parents, breaking them into pieces. It took long enough never to stop, and so little time it was ash before it began.

It was my season for watching, and forgetting how to sleep. I did strange things I’d never done. Like make pictures of that sorry little trio we were, that we’d always been. First came the pictures of Frances, my mother. A few years of that, and then came the portraits of my father, Joseph, a lonely man who grieved he might not outlive us all. I spent more time poring over his pictures than I ever spent on the man when he was alive.

Joseph (who can be trusted?) / archival pigment print / ©Frank Rodick, 2016

Squeezed in there somewhere was another discovery: three old snapshots in yet one more old shoebox, pictures of a smooth-bellied four year old boy standing naked in a bathtub. The boy was long gone, but I’d been taught to recognize him as me. I tried blowing up that thin white body and turning him inside out; I christened my churnings with flash powder and cold water, and I called the pictures everything will be forgotten.

everything will be forgotten (self-portrait as child, no. 2.1) / archival pigment print / ©Frank Rodick, 2014

There were times I imagined myself a Nietzschean character, watching death do its dirty work — at least as it played out in ICUs and the dementia wards where ninety-year-old women played with dolls and screamed about concentration camps. But all I really managed was to keep my eyes open and take notes. I paid attention out of a shopworn sense of filial duty, exhausted curiosity, and because it dawned on me that there might be a vein worth mining in all this. Artists — I’ve imagined myself one of those too — can be monsters.

untitled self, no. 35 / archival pigment print / ©Frank Rodick, 2017

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Frank Rodick

Photo-based artist whose work is exhibited and collected internationally. He writes about art and creativity, fog and mirrors. See frankrodick.com.