“The loss of, or manipulation of, the human face is the most disturbing and fascinating aspect of Cockburn’s work. These faceless or masked portraits me of John Baldessari’s manipulated mass-media images. He often used colored dots, or other means, to cover faces, interrupting the viewer and de-personalizing the image. But Cockburn’s photographs seem to have the opposite effect. She often embroiders or cuts out shapes into a complex pattern, and this record of tedious physical labor draws me into her images. Furthermore, whereas Baldessari begins with mass media, Cockburn often begins with a portrait, or something that appears to come from a personal photo album. Still the manipulating work that Cockburn does on the photograph creates a barrier between myself and the subject, but this barrier is no greater than the history that already divides me from this image of yesteryear.
Her work strikes me as, metaphorically, having something to do with memory. Her “hand crafted” photographs point towards the intensely personal and perspectival nature of our memories. As we process and understand our experiences, does memory obliterate reality or is memory itself an act of discovery? It seems significant that many of her chosen photographs include women. This intensifies both the manipulative and hand-crafted nature of her work. Is memory — is history — gendered, and what control do those who are remembered have over those who are remembering?”
source: Transpositions, excerpt from text by Jim Watkins