In trying to get at "everything" it was imperative to edit tightly and so I laid out distinct themes that ran through the installation. Each north to south row of columns a had a number of photos that addressed a particular theme, although they weren't confined to it.
The first aisle had a number of images about formation of self and was heavy on personal imagery
The second aisle talked a lot about construction of self with an emphasis on the construction and fluidity of gender.
The third aisle was desire, with an emphasis on addiction
The fourth aisle was American identity
The fifth aisle addressed getting by
The sixth aisle addressed hope and pride and joy
From the start I thought that exploring these specific motifs would be able to get at how we live and how we create ourselves, particularly how we can circumvent unreasonable constraints. I wanted to explore the strength in how we figure out our lives, and the truth of how sometimes we can't work it out. And I wanted pride, resignation, exhaustion, beauty, ignorance, insight, desire, strength. I wanted everything. And I wanted everything existing concurrently. Sometimes on parallel planes, and sometimes within the same image, within the same moment.
Of course there were sub-themes and formal components that connected the images in the East to west aisles, too. Connections were spaced throughout the entire installation. Because there was so much physical space between the photos it was often difficult the see the direct relationship among the photos . But that's something I loved, just a little bit of memory to connect one image to the next, regardless of how people moved through the installation. The placement of some images connected to each other by facing each other across an aisle. Some connected images were installed more than a block apart.
The origial thematics that I used to shape the epic were there from alpha to omega, but as time went on tropes and forms cropped up that I only began to see when I was editing, and they became integral parts of the narrative. Literal images of reflection began significantly popping up around 2004. False construction of industry and constructed landscapes became more important. I found that I needed to use a "red carpet" metaphor. Having ether completely closed or completely open backgrounds in portraiture began to interest me a lot. Images with the night sky and entirely black backgrounds became prominent and crucial to the edit. And desire for redemption was theme I hadn't really explored or thought deeply about at the beginning of 95 but as I moved forward I found it helped connect hope, fear, disappointment and desire in a way I hadn't seen before. All these new things came in but the structure of the installation remained the same.
As I saw patterns evolving in my work, it was incredibly important for there to be images that echoed each other, so viewers think they've seen a similar image somewhere else. Those similar images could have been made years and years from each other or thousand and thousands of miles apart.
For the final installation in 2010, I placed a photo of the house where my grandmother grew up, 1607 W. Susquehanna Ave, right at the beginning of the first aisle. My great grandmother had owned and operated a kosher butcher shop in that house for years.
And I placed another photo of butcher shop at the end of the sixth aisle, about 2 blocks from the photo of my grandmothers house. I made this photo of in a butcher shop in small town in France and I wanted to start and end the installation with the same store, one intensely personal and one completely foreign, both connected to me and connected in the world.
While writing this essay I'm constantly using both past and present tense verbs. I feel like I'm still working it out, a year after it's done. Apparently I'm putting the brakes on real, real slow.