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New book: 'A Habit of Self Deceit' by Lorena Turner
"...I googled how painful it would be to slit one's wrists (thinking of Diane Arbus), and up came the number for the suicide hotline ... I thought about calling it. Then I thought the person who had answered it would think I'm dumb for considering such an action." -- Lorena Turner


NEW YORK, NY.- Lorena Turner's adopted mother was an alcoholic who drank heavily most of her life. She was verbally and physically abusive to her daughter and also to her husband, Lorena's adopted father. In September of 2016 her mother, also named Lorena, drank wine in the morning and vodka in the afternoon. She then battered her husband to the point he couldn't take it anymore and he called 911 for help. Two police officers arrived at the house, and on September 26, 2016, Lorena's mother was moved out of the home she had shared with her husband for almost 25 years to live in an assisted living facility for people with dementia. Lorena was 47 years old at the time and had been estranged from her parents for the better part of 30 years.

Lorena writes: "When my father called me to tell me about what had happened to my mother three days earlier, I thought about my well-dressed 5'1", 85-pound mother, handcuffed and led out of their light-yellow pseudo Mediterranean style house and into a police car. The neighbors surely must have noticed."

Lorena's mother spent 14 days in a detox center before being transferred to the dementia care facility where she currently lives. Lorena's father has moved to a new home in the same neighborhood, so he could be close to his wife and visit her every day. Lorena's nearly 30-year breach with her parents ended when her mother relocated, and Lorena, who had always wanted to have a closer relationship with her father, started to visit him once a month to help him transition to his new living situation. She also visits her mother who does not appear to recognize her but tells Lorena that she loves her.

Around the same time as Lorena's first trip to visit her parents in their new circumstances in 2016, she encountered Gregory Halpern's photo book Zzyzx, a series of surreal and mysterious images of 21st century southern California. As a resident of southern California for almost 20 years, the story in his book was something that she knew. Intimately. She writes: "And I hated it. I've always wrestled with the uncommon commonness of the landscape of southern California. To me it is both captor and liberator. But what got me most about that book was the way it celebrated things (landscapes, people, objects) that are, in the context of my life, mundane, if not downright ugly".

It was the convergence of the two events, her mother's move and Halpern's Zzyzx, that brought her to the work she has done in A Habit of Self Deceit. Lorena's photographs were made in Florida starting in November 2016 in locations near her father's home, and also in Los Angeles and in New York City, where Lorena's mother grew up and Lorena herself lives part of the year. It is the conceptual storytelling of Lorena's fraught relationship with her parents, through documenting ordinary landscapes and found objects that evoke memories of her difficult childhood and her ongoing personal journey to heal and move on.

She writes, "As I was re-entering my parents' lives, learning about who they are at the ages of 87 and 78, I was looking at the world through this new framework given to me by Gregory Halpern. Isn't that what photography does best? It is a series of visual legacies that we internalize and respond to, either consciously or unconsciously. In my case, both things -- spending time with my parents at the end of their lives and Zzyzx -- turned me inside out. The evidence of this is on every page."

Lorena was born in 1969. She was adopted by her parents in 1970. During her childhood she grew up in in Minnetonka, MN and Sudbury, MA. In 1987, when her mother's father died, Lorena attempted suicide, and instead of an inpatient stay in the hospital's psych ward ("The neighbors would notice," Lorena's mother told her), she was sent to therapy where she learned that, "what is going on in my house is not a result of whom I am, but instead a product of my mother's alcoholism." After that, Lorena asked her father why he didn't leave his wife. "He told me he gave her an ultimatum -- him or the alcohol. She chose both and my dad stayed. It became clear to me that my dad valued his relationship with my mom over the abstracted notion of 'family'. It was then that I decided that families were not worth the emotional investment."

In 1989, Lorena moved to Boston after her sophomore year of college. That same year she was given a Minolta x-700 camera and was taught how to develop and print film. She decided she loved photography and moved to Albuquerque to take undergraduate classes in photography at the University of New Mexico. During this period, she continued to suffer bouts of depression and saw a string of therapists. After many moves, several relationships, and some interesting and challenging photo projects, in 2006 Lorena met a man who would became her life partner. A year later they had a son. They split their time between Los Angeles, where Lorena teaches photography in the Communication Department at Cal Poly Pomona, and New York City.

Always aware that she was adopted, Lorena found her biological mother when access to the internet was first available in 1995. Her biological mother told her never to look for her biological father, so she didn't. However, in 2016 her biological father's family found her through a DNA match online. Lorena is working on a project about the perceptions of biological/genetic connections between people from her perspective as an adoptee.

A Habit of Self Deceit comes from a concept in existentialist philosophy coined by Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvior, bad faith, which describes the habit that people have of deceiving themselves into thinking that they do not have the freedom to make choices for fear of the potential consequences of making a choice. It is also commonly understood as to mislead or deceive another.

For Lorena, the title refers to, "decisions made by her parents throughout the course of their lives, and how their orientation to their lives have impacted my relationship with myself".





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