Monday, February 9, 2009

#69 Senior Seminar Class

Artist's Statement - Autobiographical Sketch:

OK, this is what I turned in. Its too long, he only wanted one page. Oh well. Tonite I think we will get it back and I'll let you know what the results are. He's kind of a hard-nose so I don't expect to be flattered. Its all good, I am started to rev up about making some more art!!

Shades of Gray – Autobiographical Sketch

I remember coming home from kindergarten and tearfully demanding to know
“What am I?” and my parents dutifully and idealistically telling me “human.” To which I replied, “Well, that’s not what the kids are school are calling me!” I remember crossing my fingers and praying any group of new found friends would not call me “white girl”. I remember thinking some kind of alarm would go off every time I went into the Shrine of the Black Madonna Bookstore. I read into the curious expression of the sales lady, “You don’t belong here.” I remember when being light-skinned was in style, I remember when it wasn’t. I remember pulling up a club in downtown Detroit and asking the white valet “How’s the party?” He replied, “It’s pretty crowded, but I gotta’ tell ya’, its mostly Black people.” I remember my first corporate job, where my co-workers took bets on what ethnicity I was, the answers ranged from Greek to Hawaiian, anything but Black. They felt comfortable telling me this. I remember, after the births of my two children, going through my old, undersized clothes and deciding which ones to give away and my husband commenting “I liked you as a [size]10.” I remember how practical I thought it was to have an SUV for hauling my art supplies. I remember how practical having Dr. Marten combat boots was for trudging through the snow on campus. I remember my husband asking me if he should get me girlfriend next. I remember how cutting my hair off opened the fissures in my ten-year marriage which ultimately led to its destruction.I remember sporting a huge Angela Davis style afro when visiting my mother (Black) in the hospital. She proceeded to explain to the white nurse, who had a bi-racial granddaughter with “hair issues”, how I had beautiful hair once and that now, I just messed it up. I remember getting sent a drink in a bar on the East Side of Detroit by a Black man. The message the bartender relayed was that “it was for the nappy headed white girl.”

The best of my artistic intentions have always been selfish, struggles to find myself within the lines of a poem, the froth of a dishpan, the eyes of my child, the pixels on a LCD canvas. I float to the top of stereotypes. Black and white swirls mixed with Scottish Stewart tartan and African Kente cloth. I held myself up to the light, trying to fit my outline into those of the women in my family, and later, the women I saw on television, in advertisements, and movies. Identities tried on and discarded. Somewhat fearful of getting to the bottom of the heap and there being no one there. Shape-shifter, moving mercurially through moments of juvenile mockery, corporate anonymity, marital monogamy, displaced singularity. An hourglass filled to the brim with grains of laughter and longing and questions seeking a voice. Straining to be heard above the din of the mundane. Phoenixing. Drowning in the mainstream, shards of glass rain down from the ceiling. Straining to hear the voice inside of me as it slowly succumbs to conformity. I plant apple trees in Eve’s orchard so women can be wise beyond mere knowledge. Excavation, through silt and sediment, so my children can have fortune, or just a future. This splitting open of myself so that others may learn. Seeking the comfort within my own skin, peeling back layers of artifice, shamelessly admiring the beauty in my flaws, placing myself under the microscope, under the knife, under the mouse. These are the voices that scream or whisper through my work . The voiceless cry out amidst the entanglement of responsibilities, relationships, and roles. Pressed upon digital leaves are collages of scar tissue and promises. My nightmares and daydreams live for women who have adversarial relationships with their reflections and retreat into their own shadows, women who slit their wrists and bleed freedom.

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