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Finding My Voice

I remember when I was an art major that my professors were always talking about providing context and creating meaning in our work. We learned about the history of art and the slow erasure of representational art for abstract art. Art with a capital A was about adding to that conversation, stitching together our postmodern experiences through our histories, our experiences, our lives.

Unfortunately, life after college didn't really care about my views of the postmodern world. And I knew enough about myself to know that I didn't have enough experiences to even know how to tell my stories. I was trying to find a job, move out of my parents' house, and start my own life.

Now here I am, twenty years later. I've tried so many things and I've learned about myself and who I am. And I'm now in a place where I am lucky enough to have the time and freedom to return to my art. My new year's resolution for 2020 was to continue to build my technical skills as a draftsperson and as a person, and start building a body of work that I could show.

And then at the end of January, I found out that my dad, who had been living in the Philippines, suddenly and unexpectedly passed away.

Photo of Me and My Dad at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado in 2013.
Me and my Dad

And a week later, my 93 year old, maternal grandmother, who was also in the Philippines, was gone.

Photo of my grandma laughing in her sunglasses
Grandma in Shades in the Garden

February has been a blur. With my dad, my grief alternates between sadness, anger, disappointment, and the bitter realization that so many things are left unsaid between us. With my grandma, I think about how vibrantly she was the center of my large family's life and the slow, drawn out end of her life. I didn't go the their funerals in the Philippines, so I never got a chance to really say goodbye.

If there is anything that I take away from my loss, it's that life is short and I want to make the most of the time that I have. It's not enough for me to become a genius portrait painter who gets portrait commissions and sells work in galleries. I want and need to be more truthful about what I care about and brave enough to make work rooted in what really matters to me.

And so I have come back to mining my history, my experiences, my life and stitching together my stories. One of the tools that I'm using to help me find my way is an Inspiration Board, a simple 18 x 24 foamboard that I use to pin photos of what I love and what motivates me.

What has been interesting about this project so far is that the things that I think I want in my art are very different from the things that actually make me happy. I realize that I like art that I can't actually make. Or I like art that I think is important intellectually but it doesn't spark any joy inside of me.

I also feel like I don't really know myself very well. I prefer things because I think I'm supposed to like them. And it's only after I look at them pinned on the board beside pictures of things that actually make me feel happy that I recognize the difference. I don't need to paint like Sargent or Sorolla and I actually enjoy the beauty in a Mucha or Chagall or Klee.

I keep everything pinned with thumbtacks so I have time to sit and live with these pictures for a while. I give myself permission to let these boards grow and evolve, slowly, organically, as dig through the strata of my past like an archaeologist. What are the experiences that shaped who I am now? How did I create my identity? How do others perceive who I am? Who is the person that I want to become?

For the next three months, I'm exploring these questions in my art and sharing my thoughts here in this blog. Subscribe to get automatic updates, probably once a week, with my current work in progress and what I'm figuring out along the way. I think that this blog will help me see patterns in my thinking and learn how to get closer to my work. My hope is that it will help others to see what this process is like and feel that they are also not alone.

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