Titus Kaphar: Titus Kaphar's broken home

Article:  "Titus Kaphar's broken home"


When artist Titus Kaphar started building his farmhouse five years ago, memories of the past conspired to drive him insane.
Painful remembrances were the genesis of "The Vesper Project," an ambitious new installation of paintings and keepsakes on view this week at the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami. The centerpiece of the exhibit looms tall inside the gallery, and could not be more out of place in Coral Gables: Kaphar's 19th century-style Connecticut farmhouse, a ramshackle box filled with splintered wood, old photographs and uprooted floorboards. The interior is wallpapered in yellowed newspaper clippings and framed portraits of the home's inhabitants: a mixed-race, multigenerational family called the Vespers.
Everything about the "The Vesper Project," Kaphar says, is built on an elaborate fiction. The farmhouse is neither from the 19th century nor from Connecticut, and the Vespers never existed. But this hardly stopped Kaphar from concocting back stories for the Vespers, characters whose histories called out to him like vengeful ghosts. He swears he heard the Vespers' voices five years earlier while painting a portrait of his aunt, a strong figure from his childhood in Michigan. Kaphar, 40, says the memory of his aunt was actually false, and that she wasn't the guardian he fondly remembered.
"Between this memory lapse and the voices, I felt like I was going insane," Kaphar says. "I was troubled by the characters speaking to me, but what terrified me more was the idea that memory is unreliable, where people are sure they are remembering something a certain way, but turns out to be untrue."