In the spring of 2016 I participated in two residencies in the northeast, the first at the Womens' Studio Workshop in upstate New York (pictures & writeup here). I had pitched them a project merging my zine experiments (playful, colorful, unrestrained) with my older debutante work (colorless, political, made for academic review).
My first week there, I banged my head against a wall. Despite drawing, folding, looking at old work and journaling, the two concepts didn't seem to come from the same part of my brain. One seemed to stem from a spatial/visual/subconscious place, the other from an analytical, sociocultural and academic place. It was beyond the capacity of my conscious brain to "figure out" their intersection verbally.
The question I seemed to be asking myself was how my past will shape my future. We are at an historical juncture for women. I have lived my twenties with a freedom not afforded to my mother. She was married at 23, and her mother's breast cancer brought her closer to home as the only daughter.
During the residency, my mother mailed me my late grandmother's teenage journal. It contains daily entries of 5 precious years from when she lived near where I currently live in New Orleans. Walking through the neighborhood, I still see rusted signs of stores she references. This sparked conversations with my mother about pieces of her life never before shared with me.
Knowing only the glamorous photos I've seen of both my mother and her mother, I misunderstood them through omission. Learning of their more difficult experiences is helping me understand the women they are and in turn helping me make choices about the woman I am and will be.
With all of that in mind, in a studio far from home, I sat down and started drawing. The images that surfaced on the page were of women spending their time raising me. These women had all put their hands on me and my environment to bring me here.
This body of work moves from a grave rubbing collage backward in time through daily domestic tasks, then "posters" of workplace challenges: addressing the problem of not being taken seriously or needing to be likeable, then finishing with drawings based on current Facebook photos that will become the glamour shots that initially obscured the fortitude of these women.
Making this work as I move into my next decade, I must need to know something. I have questions about where responsibilities of care will fall if I do not take them up, questions about finding identity and meaning in ways that depart from their example. I find myself feeling reverent of where they've been, but looking ahead into uncharted waters, I'm wondering what to pack and what to leave at home.
Thanks for reading.