Milwaukee, WI

Lois Bielefeld is a queer series-based artist working in photography, audio, video, and installation. Her work continually asks the question of what links routine and ritual to the formation of identity and personhood and the development of meaning-making.

To commit to memory delves into my parent’s life, particularly their conservative Evangelical traditions and how this plays out within the home. The genesis for this series was a video piece, Thank you Jesus, for what you are going to do, I made of my mom’s daily practice of planking while reciting memorized Bible passages. After completing the video in March 2020, I questioned what does it mean for me, a queer and atheist artist, to share work about deep devotion/faith? Being on different ends of the political spectrum, my parents and I constantly straddle a wide ideology chasm yet somehow, we negotiate and bridge our differences through this project. I’m interested in how the labor of looking can be a type of active listening that leads to understanding. This has led to this in-depth series looking at their complex personhood while wading through my own position.

Through photographic re-enactments, I examine domesticity, power relations, ritual, faith, aging and memory. I look at the house as a container and how it has been marked and manifested through their everyday movements, aesthetics, and use. I'm interested in both the imprint they've made on the house but also the imprint the house has made on them.

Within the series, there are four video works, an audio installation, and over 150 constructed portraits and house studies. Each portrait is dually titled. My parents and I each developed our own caption for each photograph. The top title is my parents and mine follows.

It was wonderful that Lois could share my 73rd birthday with me and Eric. I just wish that Dan and Lydia could have been here. Lois made the table beautiful for celebrating. Even with partial sight, I do see and appreciate beauty, design, and color.

On mom's 73rd birthday she requested Cinnabons with extra frosting. I procured them at Mayfair Mall. On my birthday, Mom always calls me and as I answer the phone she immediately launches into singing Happy Birthday to me. If I can’t answer she sings it for my voicemail. I love that she does this.

I look at the trees, and realize I will have many more rakings after this one.

My dad is a huge James Bond fan. I remember seeing Octopussy in the theater when it was released and having clown nightmares after. We have had many a discussion about the epic chase scenes and which Bond was best.

House Study #111

My dad’s ancestors were miners in Cornwall, England. His aunts taught my mother how to make Cornish Pasty, my mother taught me, and I have taught Dan, Lois, and our granddaughter Lydia. Our pasty has round steak, potato, onions, suet, and salt baked in a pie crust. I like to pour milk over mine and Eric likes ketchup and milk. My dad would have put cream on it. If I work on it alone it takes me about six hours to make.

My mom’s cooking style when I grew up in the 80s was predominantly mix n’ matching processed foods: combining cream of mushroom Campbell soup with frozen peas and macaroni noodles to make tuna-noodle casserole. We’d have pizzas on pitas and beef and rice fiesta. We ate out a few times a year and it was usually pizza or Denny’s, which was a huge treat. On birthdays we got to plan our menu and I always requested Hawaiian Punch.

Thank you Jesus, for what you are going to do, 2020 (Excerpt)

Dad and Chair, 2021 (Excerpt)

When I was young, I always wanted to be a full-time homemaker. And I wanted twelve children. Then I married Eric and God blessed us with two children. We would have liked more but are very grateful for both Dan and Lois. It was wonderful to have a boy and a girl. I love and appreciate both of them. We miss being able to see more of each of them. I pray faithfully for them every day.

Since I became an adult, I have always felt like I was looking in from the outside on my parents–only seeing through a limited framework. I wonder how much of that was due to the boundaries I built.

Installation shot by Yaozhi Liu