The Patriarch

Erica J Mitchell

The Art Institute of Portland

On March 26th, 2013, my Mother called me, crying, to tell me, my Papa (grandfather) had just died at the age of 71. I can count how many times my Mother has cried to me on one hand, which meant the news was catastrophic. I rented a car and drove 12 straight hours to my mother in Seaside, California, to the house where my Papa had lived, the house my mother was raised in and I was born into. The house where, after his divorce from my grandmother, his wife of 22 years, my Papa stayed, alone. The house where after retiring at age 55 he began a quiet, simple life. The house he dominated with his singular presence.

This house and my Papa have been stable points throughout my life. I moved around through parents, families and states. I always knew no matter how many years went by or how many things in my life changed that when I would return to his house he and it would be the same.

When I arrived in California, my mother and I began a long process of understanding, accepting and letting go. These photographs are my exploration of this process, an archaeology of the house, the things, my mother, and myself. I knew that in time my mother would remove his things and assert her own identity throughout the house. Over the next 8 months I would photograph our experience, recording the patterns and habits that remained before change would finally come.

Image#1: Heart of the House; kitchen counter.