The Art of Nostalgia

Allison Hyde tries to capture the ephemeral before it’s too late

Photo by Trask Bedortha

At first glance, someone simply piled junk in a corner: burned furniture, broken picture frames, shattered glass — debris from a house fire or human detritus stumbled upon in an abandoned home.

Upon closer inspection, there’s method in the flow of objects; the process of devastation and decay is rendered in stark and arresting three dimensions and symmetry among the chaos. This is “Mourning the Ephemeral,” a 2011 installation from Eugene artist and UO MFA printmaking graduate Allison Hyde.

“I’m innately very nostalgic,” Hyde says. “I’ve always been fascinated with memory, nostalgia and sentiment embodied in certain things — the way people feel compelled to take photos, the way tangible things contribute to our sense of identity throughout our lives.”

While Hyde received her MFA in printmaking, she’s an interdisciplinary artist, which is a natural choice considering her mentor, the late Seattle artist Patrick Haskett, dabbled in printmaking, painting and sculpture. “I do a lot of installation, sculpture, painting and drawing,” she says.

Hyde’s brand of nostalgia is making an impression: In 2013 her work was exhibited at the Janet Turner Print Museum in Chico, California, and “Mourning the Ephemeral” was installed for 10th Northwest Biennial at the Tacoma Art Museum in 2012 where her prints are currently on view for Ink This! Contemporary Print Arts in the Northwest.

Sample Hyde’s portfolio and see works of a distinct vision that flip concepts of beauty, truth, memory and art. “What Remains: in mid air” (serigraph with ash and charcoal on Mylar) depicts a child jumping, perhaps on a bed or pillows — a heavily distressed image of what might normally be a joyful activity but is here imbued with sadness.

“History Reflected” is silver spoons, splayed akimbo upon a mirror, each spoon tagged delicately with an address. Like a lot of objects in Hyde’s work, she found the spoons at an estate sale. “Someone might have had furniture for 40 years,” Hyde says. “These things to one person have all this value and they end up getting discarded.”

This sense of valuing the memory alongside a panicked urgency to preserve history before it’s gone is a common thread throughout Hyde’s pieces. “My work has been black and white, aesthetically dark,” Hyde says. She feels that anytime there’s a color chosen, it implies something. Hyde wants her work to be objective, “a documentation of sorts,” she says.

“We had a house fire when I was a child. It happened the same year my parents were divorced,” Hyde explains. “It was a pivotal time in my life: loss associated with a tangible loss. A lot of my work investigates that sense of loss: What are the things that mean most to you?”

Now Hyde will be making new memories in a 17th-century French convent — Le CouvaNT. The convent in Southwest France has been transformed into a sort of artist collective and Hyde was selected for an artist residency. At Le CouvaNT, Hyde will collaborate with international artists and create an entirely new body of work. She hopes to return to Eugene’s art scene in nine to 12 months.

To learn more about the work of Allison Hyde go to