Finding Yourself at Home
“Your artistic voice reflects your unique point of view, life experiences, identity, values, and what matters to you. Your voice is part of your DNA and there will never be anyone else on earth exactly like you. Your choice of style, skill, subject matter, and medium is yours alone.”
I spent most of July with my family. Three weeks on Martha’s Vineyard where I was born and raised and a few days in New Orleans with my brother and my SIL's family. I have deep roots and many relatives on Martha's Vineyard, even my 30 grade school classmates were the same core group of kids from nursery school through 8th grade and many still reside there. For me the Island is a crazy quilt of family and almost-family. My great, great grandfather, a fisherman who emigrated from the Azores, has 5 generations of descendants who call the island home. I don't think I could even recognize most of these "cousins" but I feel their presence when I am there.
Martha's Vineyard is a magnet for artists, writers and musicians who distill long quiet gray winters into beauty in every art form. This is a place where I feel my feet planted strongly in the artistic lineage of past, present and future.
In my own family everyone creates. My mom is a distinguished oil painter and shell artist, my dad carves wood into sculptures of birds and fish, my sister is an award winning animal photographer, my brother has transformed each room of his home into a haven with his hands. One niece is an incredible poet and two nephews are music makers. Their accomplishments feel like my success too.
In this place life revolves around the sea and the seasons. Summers are a frenzy of colorful events and crowded with people. The fall is a time of peace, relaxation and connection to nature. In winter the land and the people hibernate and turn inward. Everything closes and gray overtakes everything. In spring, birds return and anticipation thrums beneath the ground as workmen swarm to prepare for another 100 day summer season. Each corner and each landscape of the island lives in my memory simultaneously in its past and present form.
I remember early morning ferry rides tossed by storms, all day beach picnics by jeep and fishing boat, hunting for quahogs with my toes and my head bobbing above the water, July 4th parades and fireworks, snowy winter fields with cold, solitary horses, the little brick church where I was baptized and married with its Tiffany stained glass windows. Long windswept beaches and tiny coves perfect for collecting seaglass and shells.
My visions are of the mood swings of the sea, boats of every kind and size, the waterfront villages with their weathered grey shingles and opulent flower gardens, the winding stone walls, the sound of fog horns and the lonely lighthouses. Many of these scenes appear in my artwork now and they have made an indelible mark on me.
As an artist I often reflect on how to authentically share my life experiences, identity, values, and truth. This year I recognized the key inside me, inside my memories and experiences growing up in this unusual corner of the world. The seasons, the tides, the storms, the landscape, the traditions, the livelihoods, the year round residents, the influx of summer people, the day tourists, the ferries, the boats, the fish, the beaches are all part of the buffet of images I can draw from.
This year as I go deeper into my self expression I will bring out my personal history through a vocabulary of symbols, forms and motifs to use in my art that are uniquely my own and tied to my experiences on this small patch of land surrounded by the sea.
Already it has been a rewarding journey in so many ways. When I retell and share my memories with my family they amplify my experience with their own memories and stories and I get to relive the good emotions a second time. So much new insight and new information this trip!
I am fascinated by the question of how to portray the passage of time, the layering of memory, the layering of generations, growth and change in a single or a series of paintings. I am curious about the interplay of symbols, of story and history.
It is my hope that by digging into my memory and my history I will uncover some magic there that will connect me more deeply to my history and to you my viewers.
When you desire to reach the heart of your own viewers you will find the path leads from your most vulnerable truth. When you are real and authentic, hearts open in recognition.
Early childhood is when we form our core personality, our opinion of ourselves as worthy or unworthy and the world as safe or unsafe. Understanding our connection to the past helps us to anchor ourselves in the present and be more accepting of who we are. It gives us a rich vein to mine for questions that are ours alone.
Over the years I have supported my students in exploring their own developing identities by searching for stories in their family history. While most of my students are less than 20 years old they have some incredibly deep insights.
Consider the objects and experiences from your past, your culture, and your history to be your subject matter.
(Student Works )
What made the strongest marks on you as a child? Was it your culture? an event? A family member? A place? What stories did your family tell? Who keeps the memories? Look through old photo albums and notice which images reach out to you through time. Why do they activate strong emotions? How could you use those images to touch someone else?
Reflect on what makes you unique and make a list of some elements you could use as symbols or motifs to personalize a new artwork or series.
3 Generations of artists
Are there treasures are buried in your family history? Let's explore those family roots, trees, and groves together…. I will be joining you in this endeavor as I experiment with some of my new ideas. Please feel free to connect with me and discuss where your own inquiries are leading. I would love to contribute to your inspiration. Please reach out, I welcome the conversation. With Light and Delight,