Virginia Colwell
Mexico City, MX


Artist’s Statement

I am captivated by how history is narrated.  Part of this fascination comes from my uncertain memories of my father.  My father was an FBI agent. He died when I was 10 but he left behind a curious record of his past—a large, black binder in which he saved materials from his FBI cases. I call the contents of this binder The Archive.

The materials in The Archive are both mundane and profound: letters from FBI headquarters, newspaper articles describing arrests and trials, souvenir mug shot photographs of suspects, strange investigation reports, surveillance photographs, and documents regarding job transfers and promotions.

The Archive continues to grow through my own retracing of the histories and secretive case references that I find on its yellowed pages.  In my research I request declassified documents, make site visits, simulate events, and accumulate images from microfilm archives.

My artworks retell and reinterpret parts of The Archive through videos, audio installations, sculptures, and drawings. The works highlight the divergence between public records and private accounts, official narratives and rumors, facts and blurred fictions.  I aim to provoke questions about judgment, history, truth, empathy, and power. The Archive’s bureaucratic materials never provide a clear depiction of events, topics, or people; from these elusive histories I fabricate new narratives by reframing, reconstructing, and retracing the past through artworks.

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