In her series Reno, a component of her larger project, Wandering In Place, Jennifer Garza-Cuen captures a hidden America. Through images of abandoned theaters, plastic covered casinos, dust collecting disco balls, women bound to decks of cards, and quiet, empty, almost pallid landscapes, she is able to inherently provoke an aura of nostalgia. She describes the work as a “metaphorical memoir,” pulling at the strings of what “the American dream” truly means and looks like. In a country formulated through vast histories, how does a cultural identity extensively exist? What does it mean to be an American? Her work captures a more subtle, yet convoluted portrait of identity, proving that the American identity is innately faceless and multifaceted.
Her photographs confuse cultural memory, bringing us back in time, despite depicting the present. In what she refers to as a “constructed-documentary style,” she dances around the idea of documentation versus constructed narrative, blurring the line between fact and fiction. She brings us into a dreamland where it seems time has stopped. Her photographs capture moments of silent contemplation. They are almost cinematic period pieces. Perhaps, stills of the scene directly following a climax. Her photographs are not clear portrayals of darkness nor light; they provoke the viewer to search for an almost Lynchian meaning. She displays moments of what may be misfortune, missed opportunity, or confusion. She allows a sense of yearning and misunderstanding, getting at the very ethos of Reno. She states:
“Reno is a place that embodies ideas of Western idealism, the frontier spirit, of transience and the gambler’s impulse to risk everything for the chance at a better life. It was founded as a toll, a passage across the Truckee River, and on silver from the Comstock Lode. In Reno I attempt to come to terms with the defining force of place while returning to my own experience of being a wanderer, a state that obscures identity and embodies what it means to exist outside the codified order of the defined.”