Memory Project Part 2: SHREDS An Installation of Transformed Personal Ephemera By Susan Napack

MAY 5 – June 4, 2023 | FOCUS

Poetry Presentation: May 11, 7 p.m.

RECEPTION: FRIDAY MAY 12, 5:30 P.M. – 7:30 P.M.

Gallery Talk: May 20, 4:30 p.m.

Artist Statement

There are those of us who are packrats, we squirrel away every bit of evidence that we have lived. We hang on to letters from friends, pictures from school, notebooks and journals that contain intimate jottings, keepsakes and mementos that contain memories of experiences that shaped who we are. And for artists, who see everyday ephemera as fodder for art, fighting the hoarding impulse is a tug-of-war.

Then we age, and wonder what will become of the trove that we cherish.

It is time to do something with all this stuff. Shelves are bursting with binders and notebooks and boxes of carefully archived documents and artifacts that chronicle my connection to the memories of the past. Now that I am well into my 6th Decade I feel an urgency to address it all, yet it is difficult to let it go and still maintain the memories that shaped me.

Will I forget who I am/was if my stuff is gone?

In Memory Project: Part 1, which was included in the Traces exhibition last year in The Annex, I began the process of displaying my memories in physical form in an effort to begin to divorce myself from them. I created a timeline of sorts, loading the gallery wall with the story of my life dating as far back as a pamphlet from an infant formula company that was given to my mother when I was born, to the then current exhibition announcement. As a last-minute addition, shredded documents were flung, confetti like at the base of the display adding to the celebratory feeling of the installation.

Each shred holds a memory.

The transformation process continues and intensifies with Memory Project Part 2: Shreds. Postcards, transit passes, credit and ID cards, journal and diary pages, date books, letters from people I do and don’t remember and other ephemera have new incarnations. Some shredded, some sliced and rearranged, they reflect their impact on my life but their preciousness is diffused into art. Distilled into remains, they are still imbued with memories but perhaps closer to a form that is easier to let go. Maybe by Memory Project Part 10.

Interactive components of the installation:

  1. Selected items will have audio files of a short memory read by me that is accessible via QR codes next to the item. Transcriptions will be available in writing.
  2. Visitors will be encouraged to take a small sealed shred-filled glass bottle home with them.


The multi-disciplinary artist Susan Napack is a relatively recent transplant to Salem from the East Coast where she grew up and lived for over half a century. She grew up in the metropolitan New York City suburbs of New Jersey before living in Philadelphia where she got her BFA at Philadelphia College of Art (now University of The Arts). Graduate studies at Pratt Institute brought her to Brooklyn, NY before coming full-circle back to New Jersey. She moved to Oregon in 2016 partially to be closer to family, but really for the gorgeous Pacific Northwest.

Wherever she has lived and worked, Susan has been involved with the art community and has exhibited her diverse work at local venues and beyond. Here in Salem she has found a welcoming community where she has exhibited at High Street Gallery, Bush Barn and Annex, Salem on The Edge Gallery and during Open Studios at The Mill where she has a studio.

Susan’s background in marketing communications as a graphic designer and art director at Time Inc. comes in handy in her effort to share and promote the riches of art and culture that Salem has to offer. In addition to her involvement with Lord & Schryver Conservancy and Grant Neighborhood Association, she has a seat on the Salem Public Art Commission.

The exhibition Memory Project Part 2: Shreds follows Memory Project Part 1: Timeline, that was included in the 2021 group exhibition in the Annex, Traces.

This buoyant installation in the Focus Gallery takes her display of materials and documents from the experiences of her life to another level. Through destruction and transformation she explores the struggle with the desire to hold on to physical representations of memories given the reality of the ephemeral nature of our lives.

Susan is grateful to Bush Barn for the freedom to splash her life on their walls.