Mother's 45s

Chambers matched his mother's 45rpm records with the family photographs to create assemblages by using the hole spaces of the records to frame the images. He eventually arrived at a satisfactory combination, incorporating forty-five 45rpm records with images and a portion of each song onto an audio cassette to be used as a part of the exhibition. He faded-in/faded-out the songs, and looped them for continuous play and in order with the wall display of the photo/record assemblages.

The photographs of his mother were sequenced according to the chronology of her life, which spanned almost 60 years. When the piece is viewed along with the songs, the sound stimulus pulls the viewer from record to record (1-45) and this process has some interesting points: the maturation process of his mother is seen; the man who came into her life and eventually became her husband and his father is seen; the maturation process of her only child (him) is seen; the change in hair and fashion styles is seen; the change in automobile models is seen; and various locales throughout the United States are seen. This project (and its success) is the high point of his visual arts career for the simple reason that it involves and perpetuates his mother's existence.

The above installation is at Gallery One, Providence, Rhode Island, April, 1990. Chambers' mother's RCA 45rpm record player is seen as the centerpiece and source for the sound stimulus. The assemblages are seen as a part of the surround or 360-degree approach to encompass the viewer. Chambers is seen standing near his mother's record player in the top-left photo.

Click on Photo-Record Assemblages to view/listen to the songs.

News coverage: "Lifebeat - Putting Mama On The Record", Providence Journal Bulletin (April20, 1990), Providence, Rhode Island: "In a show that opens today at Gallery One, the Texas-born artist bares a more personal, less public side of himself. The result is a moving tribute to his own mother that Chambers hopes will stir memories and emotions in everyone."


News coverage: "8 Days A Week", The Phoenix's New Paper (The Providence Phoenix) (April 19-25, 1990), Providence, Rhode Island: "Make room for my 45s right beside your 78s, Jackson Browne once sang to his father. Tom R. Chambers mixes his media to come up with a spin on that particular sentiment. Mother's 45s pulls the rug out from under ordinary nostalgia by pinpointing specific sections of his mom's snapshots and strategically-placed seven-inch records (selections include 'I Get Ideas', 'Playing For Keeps' and 'Little Small Town Girl'). An era is documented; the woman's pleasure concerns become evident; and a dying art form is given another purpose. In one fell swoop, Chambers chronicles how we interact with our memories and how those memories are forever irretrievable."

Exhibition catalogue (ISBN #0-932706-20-7, 1992): Parents, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio: "Like myself, artists Tom Chambers and Carrie Mae Weems can find themselves unexpectantly reliving their childhoods by the chance encounter with a 1930s record hit or the sweet chocolate-like aroma of fresh-brewed coffee." (Ron Geibert, Curator, Wright State University) (catalogue pdf)

Chambers is seen at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Wright State University with his "Mother's 45s" project ("Parents" exhibition):


Some of the photo-record assemblages are seen along with the record-protectors frontispiece and his mother's RCA 45rpm record player (Photos by Doug Vogel, 1992).

Comments left in the guest book during the opening of "Mother's 45s" at Gallery One, Providence, Rhode Island (April, 1990):

"The Yellow Rose of Texas, you know how the song goes." PS

"No other word means as much as mother." DP

"Great idea and concept. Good luck. I'm sure your mom is proud, especially today." AW

"Wonderful, warm, wistful. You done your mama proud." JA

"This show has a wonderful feeling." JM

"Great idea. Loved 45s and images with each. Keep up good work." RS

"These photos and music bring many memories back to us." CW and HW

"One of the gold dust twins and soon to be RISD grad - thanks for mothers." JG

"Great concept, brings back memories of our parents and I'm sure everyone else's. Mothers are not to be forgotten." DC and BC

"Great show." DV and NZ

"Very excellent." TRD

"Insight and imagery of times past." LN and VN

"I think it's a form of concrete poetry. Are you familiar with it? Great show." IC

"You must have some great memories here - a very interesting idea - we are looking through a time tunnel at the past." TM

"Talk about recording the past - clever idea. It was a pleasure to trace a life of someone I never knew." KB

"Another great show - thanks for sharing - what is next?" MV

"Touching blend of sight and sound - how a song captures a face, place, time, feeling - all those details of personal memory. Thanks for the associations." MS

"As usual, very nice, and this particular show definitely has a special subjective emotion in the love you felt for your mother. Great." RM and LM

"Thanks for sharing your family with us. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip down memory lane." SS

"A real down to Earth (day) show. Great. Congratulations again, and good luck. I'm fortunately old enough to have bought all those records in their original." TB

"Never know what to write - good show - liked it a lot." SL

"Such a wonderful tribute to your mother. Thanks for sharing." PK

"Is there a part two? I was so intrigued that I wanted to know and see even more. Wonderful tribute." DT

"Great show, very inventive." DE

"Brilliant display." KM

"Lots of love displayed here. She'd be proud of you." JF

"What a wonderful work of inspiration." VL

"You are the best." KH

"Tell me why someone elses roses give just one more chance to say - I’ve been there. In deep appreciation." SM

Opening at Gallery One, Providence, Rhode Island (April 22, 1990) (Scroll horizontally to view images.)

Chambers is seen (leather jacket) speaking with Gary Metz. Mr. Metz was the Chair of the Photography Department at the Rhode Island School of Design (Providence). He passed away in 2010.

Click on poster image to view/download full version (20"X30", 300dpi) for printing:

Mother's 45s Revisited