What if there was a way to visualize catharsis? That's what artist Peyton Fulford has done in her university town of Columbus, Georgia by turning breakup texts and notes on heartbreak into paper banners. Individual letters, cut from 8" x 11" card stock, are strung together and photographed. In this way, Fulford delivers closure to those seeking confirmation that their feelings are real with the ultimate validation: art.
Fulford's series Abandoned Love began as a school project in 2015 and has been recently revived—albeit with some changes. Her public call for "brief phrases from your diary, text messages, etc. that are related to themes of love and melancholy/heartbreak" generated submissions from over 30 different countries, even while the project was inactive. The artist says she was inspired by Learning to Love You More by Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher, as well as London artist Klaudija Visockyte's Please Don't Leave Me. The hardest submissions to receive were from unused suicide notes, says Fulford.
The original iteration of the series favored closely cropped shots of the banners on locations chosen for their color contrast. "You Left And Now I'm Homesick," says one yellow requiem over blue-gray clapboard. "Do I Still Exist To You," asks pink on green, a millennial's Cartesian equation: I'm loved, therefore I am. Another accuses, "Everything Is Always On Your Terms."
Although Fulford's project is based on universal heartbreak, she wants her photos to reflect the spirit of the region. "The landscape of Georgia has been influential on the series," Fulford explains. "I love big cities, but growing up here has helped me slow down my creation." There is a sense that resolution is lurking just outside the grasp of the author, and the view of Fulford's lens.
Over the last year and a half, Fulford has moved from digital to film photography and away from the close crop. "I'm now focusing more on incorporating environments that surround the building," she explains, as well as the socioeconomic innuendo of abandoned buildings in the Southern landscape. Her first photograph in the Abandoned Love revivalis of an A-Frame house that would look right at home on #cabinporn Tumblr if it weren't for the punched out windows.
Seeing their words imposed on a structure then posted on social media "not only helps [the author] to feel closure, but others feel that they're not alone," says Fulford. Although her works are site specific, not all of the biodegradable banners have been abandoned after the photoshoot. The artist says, "I live in such a small town that it can be considered vandalism."
While it's tempting to hold up Abandoned Love as evidence of changing semantic constraints from meter-centric (Haikus, couplets) to platform-centric (Twitter, Snapchat) it's really a timeless comment on relationships as exercises in subjectivity. It just so happens that the shortest phrases reveal the starkest limitations of romantic communication.