A Person Shaped Hole

2018 - 2021

Collaborators: Crystal Moore and The Center for Hope

There is a presence in what is missing.
Henry James

I recently started collaborating with the families of missing people. After listening to their stories I started to think about what their loss might look like if it were made visible. Could someone create a portrait of a body that was not there? What would it look like? For the next three years I will work with families of missing people through The Center of Hope to explore these questions through large-scale photographic diptychs and augmented reality sculptures. This project will be exhibited in 2021 at the Tang Teaching Museum.


The place that a person was last seen often marks the moment that they last existed for a family. As time passes and the family revisits this place in their memory it changes—the details are shifted and rearranged. For this project I will visit these places with the family and create two photographs. One photograph will be a portrait of the remaining family members or friends and the other will be a digitally constructed space for the missing person, a confabulated image that is part remembered and part imagined. Within these empty spaces I will build virtual sculptures of the missing person based on the dimensions and photographs provided by their families. By building these sculptures in mixed or augmented reality, a space that can only be seen through a phone or ipad, and wrapping them in a skin that reflects the space, these holes will both appear and disappear through technology and the subtle mismatches of edges. The families of missing people often describe their loss as a contradiction in which they simultaneously believe that their loved one is coming back and also that they will never come back. I am interested in describing a space that is similarly contradictory, both visible and invisible, there and also not there.

In this project I am interested in the way that seeing becomes the essential quality of existence. Both pieces of this project pose questions about whether something that is not visible can exist and be memorialized. Each element is situated in relationship to a specific form of art that memorializes bodies. The form of the monumental portrait evokes the large oil paintings of aristocrats that hang in the galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The virtual sculptures are drawn from the memorial sculptures of famous political figures that are situated in public spaces. Yet the missing bodies that A Person Shaped Hole memorializes are not the bodies of aristocrats or public figures. The national database of missing people is disproportionately made up of low-income, underrepresented, and immigrant populations. A Person Shaped Hole challenges the politics of representation and preservation by inserting bodies or non-bodies into spaces where they are not often found and memorializing their lives and stories.