Dog Days on the Chaparral is an installation comprised of three photographic sculptures made in response to the question “where are you from?” Although I define myself as both Portuguese and American, as someone who immigrated as a child, my identification as either ebbs and flows. The work embodies this slipperiness—a complicated emotional geography—in fabricated sculptures which collage images of two landscapes, the California chaparral and Portuguese montado, as proxies for these two homes and identities. I employ vernacular building materials and tools, such as lumber, engineered wood, common fasteners, house paint and steel clamps to create a literal and conceptual framework to which I affix an arrangement of contoured photographs. Hacking together disparate materials and technologies to create multi-layered sculptures reflects the Sisyphean efforts to collage together a sense of home and belonging. The resulting photo objects are both visual and haptic and function as icons or shrines soliciting quiet contemplation of a place just beyond reach. When I contemplate these photo objects, I reflect on my family and our history, in this country and the old country, and collapse the distance between that narrative and myself. Although the body of work is rooted in my idiosyncratic immigration experience, it reflects a wider migrant narrative. Forces like poverty and conflict cause homes and nations to crumple like paper and it may take generations for migrants and their descendants to feel grounded again.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Photography, Artistic; Wood sculpture; Installations (Art); Portuguese Americans--Pictorial works; Identity (Psychology) in art

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Photography and Related Media (MFA)

Department, Program, or Center

School of Photographic Arts and Sciences (CAD)


Joshua Thorson

Advisor/Committee Member

Catherine Zuromskis

Advisor/Committee Member

Willie Osterman


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes