Exploring Identity @ RMG

It has been a life-long habit to spend countless hours pouring through family photographs.

I am enthralled by the expression and perception of a moment through a photo. A very interesting topic in the age of social media…

When I create art, I like to extract and add elements from photographs to give them them new life and meaning – often making images move or printing or projecting them in unlikely ways.

The art work here, “Washing Your Clothing in my Culture”, was created for a group show at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery in 2000. The images are of me and my mother silk-screened on birch-veneer to appear as though we are part of the wood grain. The images have been made large wooden containers, meticulously created by piecing together layers and layers of cut-out plywood.

I was struck by the similar stance in these images – both are related to the construction of the female identity in different ways. The image of my mother (right) is of her at 16 years old carrying a basket of clothing to wash in a creek in a small village in Portugal (to scale). At 6-7 years old, I am pictured striking a familiar pin-up pose (scaled to my current height of 5 ft, 7 in).

We are three daughters in our family. My mother loved to make dresses for us and keeps  treasured dresses in a chest. Wooden dresses sit on top of the sculpture of my mother – as if she is supporting and being weighed down by aspects of the female identity. Elements of the printed dresses are embroidered, a painstaking process of drilling hundreds of holes and embroidering through the wood. The image of myself is also embroidered in the areas of the bikini. Portions of embellishments are illuminated and brought to the fore while other parts of the images appear to seep into the wood.

My age and my mother’s age (at the time of creating the work) are reflected in the layers of wood of the sculptures. Mine is 28 layers deep and my mothers is 53 layers deep.

This piece is about my identity as a girl, woman and daughter and how it has been influenced by cultural standards, expectations and conditioning.

Creating can help us heal, purge blockages and see things differently. Making art empowers me to create my own identity. I hope you have a creative outlet to help you do the same.

Do you have comments or insights to share? Connect with me to let me know what you think!

Currently a garden sculpture – at one with the elements – at The Hive Centre and Stay.

*Big debt of gratitude to Artist and Mentor, Richard Toms, who was instrumental in helping me create this work.

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