I begin, as it goes, creating a Frankenstein quilt of memories. The intimacy of familial love is captured in a snapshot-like image, where the atmospheric tension is inviting yet daunting, and overall, intimidating. It is uneventful, domestic, and frozen in time. This emotional state I am often expressing is, indeed, a contradictory mixture of the alienation and familiarity of family dynamics. I am beginning to separate myself from the narrative I have been ascribed by my family, and challenge both of our assumptions about my life wishes.
This entire project centers around the position I hold within my father’s family, what I have learned from them, and how they have influenced who I perceive myself as, and what I expect myself to want. Growing up, I was subjected to lectures from my elders asserting what was the correct way to be happy. How to ‘have it all’--the family, the career, the partner--but in the correct order, and at the right times. Of course, it is not so black and white to the extent that anything straying from the instructions would be considered a failure. Though the constant assumption that I should want to be a famous artist showing at every blue-chip gallery, living in a penthouse in Manhattan, does get kind of exhausting after a while.
But as I sift through the memories in my mental and physical archives, I am beginning to make sense of the teachings and lessons I once misunderstood and mistrusted. Where once I was critical of the advice from my women-kin, considering it to be too far removed from my own desires, I now find myself reflecting on these conversations with fondness and curiosity. These women-kin I was told to look up to as pioneers of ‘having it all’ have become less of a caricature, their humanity restored.
Sunday dinner is where I witnessed so many conversations with lessons sprinkled throughout, always offering something to be gathered. Every week, the women of the family would sit together at the dining room table, after we had eaten dinner, drinking coffee and nibbling on dessert (“just a skiver!”). It was here that so many stories were retold over and over again, yet each time bringing another tangent, another revelation. When this happens now, I desperately try to latch onto this memory that I never had. I want to know where I came from, so I can know where to go next.
The formal aspects of this work have shown a disintegration in my efforts for accurate physical representation. I have stepped far away from the idea that good painting must look finished, that everything must be rendered and cared for meticulously. Instead, I am interested in maintaining the atmosphere of the monochromatic underpainting underneath patches of opaque color, illustrating the tension between the ephemeral and the tangible in memory. I look to artists like Toulouse-Lautrec, Mary Cassat, Berthe Morisot, and James Ensor to inspire various technical choices like color, line, translucency, and paint application.
Through all of this exploration, I am coming to question a lot of the dreams I have/had for the future, and how genuine they really are. Do I really want these things, or have I been conditioned to want them? As I think more introspectively, the illusions of acceptable desire begin to fade, and I can start to discern what I genuinely value. I release the expectations, and assert my place as I define it.
As I enter the purgatory of lost adolescence, and stand at the threshold of adulthood, I feel an urgency to visually describe the existential questions that arise out of the experiences I had in my childhood, and the stories I have been told. I seek further understanding of my relationship to my family, and how this position I hold has impacted my sense of self. These dissolving memories desperately need to be rekindled, so that, perhaps, I may find where I belong, and what my love should look like. This melancholy nostalgia seems, at least, to be a step toward discovering where the balance lies.