Learn more about my project HERE
The Anatomy of Identity
Identity formation and development theory is one of my favorite fields of study because of how vast the research
expands. Numerous factors like socioeconomic status and gender identity within any given context can affect the overall sense of identity within an individual. Systematic oppression and daily micro-aggressions are based on a set of given ideal standards that leave some individuals with more power because they fit within the societies ‘guidelines.’ In America, the standard is white, straight, cis-gendered, and male, which I am oversimplifying now for the sake of not getting too far off topic. The ways in which one can deviate include being a person of color, being apart of the LGBTQA+ community, and/or female. Society holds us up to these standards, and if we deviate, it’s up to us on whether or not we project our personal identities externally. The way in which we show our identity is then perceived by others outside of us. For my research, I chose to explore how the creative process can demonstrate the process of assimilation, accommodation, and resistance.
In “Coping with Threatened Idenitites” (1986), Breakwell first references other prominent identity theorists like Cooley(1902), who explains that identity is formed by the ‘looking glass self,’ that is to say that individuals learn about themselves through their interactions with others. This theory is further explained by Mead (1934), who furthers explained the concept of the “I” and the “me” earlier proposed by James (1890). The “me” is the self that allows social expectations and roles to dictate behavior, and the “I” could be equated to our ‘true self’ or the self that is resilient against social constraints. Hofman (1983) suggests that our identity is made up of sub-identities, such as racial identity, gender identity, and religious identity. These identities are then paired with certain roles and expectations created by society. Each of these identities is subject to questioning, and questioning is a form of social control.
Breakwell discusses the idea of assimilation and accommodation:
“Social roles provide a structure for self-description and are hemmed by social values which generate self-evaluation… Personal identity could be considered the relatively permanent residue of each assimilation to and accommodation of a social identity. It is what remains when the exigencies of a social context that demand acceptance of a particular social identity fade.” (Page 17)
The active process in which an individual reflects and evaluates their tendency to adapt or resist to the social structure is what intrigues me the most. Each person is born into a certain social context and must adapt according to the expectations set in that particular context. The process of evaluation continues throughout our lives; that is – the “me” is constantly being destroyed and rebuilt throughout the lifetime of an individual in order to accommodate to various social contexts. The ‘I’ is constant and therefore exists within all social contexts, supposedly free of all social pressures and expectations.
While I was abroad, I experienced racism, homophobia, and transphobia. I identify as a queer, pan-sexual womxn, and when faced with comments that allude to some notion that I am not existing correctly or that I need to change, I find myself wanting to be different than I am, to be “normal” and blend in. The pushback that we can get in regards to our identity, something that feels so personal, can deeply affect our self-esteem. To combat this, I chose to take some self-portraits:
I had just gotten my hair cut, and while I felt confident about it, it still warranted some unwanted comments from others. Taking these photos was an attempt at resistance because I am simply not hiding. Making art has been imperative to coping with deviance, while not giving up who I am to accommodate for the social pressures.
With that being said, I recognize that many of my identity issues have stemmed from my personal identity clashing with my perceived identity. This makes me wonder, at what point do we decide that we will resist or accommodate? When do we say “enough is enough” and continue to live our lives despite what other people may say or think? When do we decide to box up the parts of ourselves that nobody wants to see and just hide them in a closet? Why do others get to decide who we can and cannot be?
Ultimately, I chose to create an embroidered art quilt for a few different reasons. Number one, I wanted to challenge myself to create something bigger than I ever have before. Second, I enjoy the process of embroidery; in between stitches, it leaves room for plenty of self-reflection. I’m an introverted person, and this project is extremely based on reflection rather than experience. I really wanted to demonstrate my skills and patience on a large scale work. Third, embroidery and art quilts have historically not been taken seriously because it has been considered “women’s work.” I wanted to break those boundaries and use the medium as a weapon of resistance. Last, I like the idea of stitching each piece together. The binding becomes a metaphor for the pieces of my identity coming together to create me. Making art and creating new things has helped me establish this entirely new sense of identity for myself. I feel as if I’m constantly shedding my skin, being reborn again with each piece I create. Finding out new things about myself as I focus in on the meditative flow of the work I do. Much like the identity processes I have discussed, the artistic process is forever ongoing, and I am excited to see how I transform.⚫️
Student of Fine Arts
Research in Arts Scholar
Class of 2018
Is street art considered vandalism if there is relevance in it’s message and it appeals to not only one’s optical sense but also to one’s intellectual realm of thought and contemplation? This is the question I wanted to research as I journeyed to Paris, the mecca of art, and look for the difference between the contemporary art movement called Street Art and what is considered Graffiti. I sought to academically investigate the history, techniques, and practices of successful artists in this movement in visual arts. This quest began early in my studies as a Fine Arts student and alas, an opportunity to dive deep into the world of artists who express themselves freely on the commonplaces of Paris through a semester abroad in the Summer of 2017.
Both graffiti and street art are illegal, ephemeral, and are done by the artists knowing it will not last, as it may be removed or painted over. The artists are spontaneously drawn to executed their art in the streets nonetheless. Their art is non commissioned, and without critique from others. It is these aspects of their art that I find most intriguing. As part of my research I wanted to experience all those elements first hand by designing and installing my own art. It was done outside the dorms where I was residing. The image was from a self portrait I had done in a photography class that was accompanied by the stated fact that if one painted over my art, it would still be there. A video account of that experience appears below.
The process of creating my project piece requited time and materials. A primary inspiration of the wall sculpture was display of work by the British Street Artist known as Banksy. The exihibition of his work included an actual wall that was removed from a building that he had installed one of his stencils. I appreciated the experience of seeing his work on an actual wall and wanted to replicate that experience with my work. The inspiration for the look of my wall comes from a piece I photographed in the southern part of Paris. The following are documentation of the process of creating my installation…
Art students spend their scholarly careers studying master works as examples of color, design, and craftsmanship, but can never truly see them without visiting them in person. Classic artwork looks completely different when printed in books, or when viewed on a computer monitor. To use Théophile Steinlen’s Chat Noir as an example, a simple Google image search shows that it’s represented by drastically different color profiles as it comes from different sources.
This can be frustrating when forming research papers and studying paintings that can never be truly seen without visiting them. One tool that artists use to preserve the integrity of the colors they have chosen is the Pantone color matching system. This system assigns every variation of color to a specific number that can be identified by mixing it physically into ink via a formula, or identified by hexadecimal monitor colors. My goal is to provide this color information to anyone looking for it, in order for these works of art to be studied and understood by students and artists who are unable to see them in person.
The difference between a typical Chat Noir image found online, and a color matched image using the PMS colors I picked when looking at it in Paris.
I’ve created swatch files of all the paintings I color matched, and you can download them here!
Color used by an artist is a deliberate choice, whether emotional or political in the case of each artwork, and should always strive to be represented in the way in which is was created. In order to use color to the best advantage, it can be wise to make use of the Pantone color matching system. I hope that my research helps to bring digital art tools to better understand classical art, and will help enhance the study and understanding of fine art.
How can I communicate what cannot be described with words?
I begin to transform my experience through a process of healing and reflection on traumatic memories through artistic exploration and play. It became apparent that self-care and compassion towards myself was the first step towards analyzing the experience of poverty due to my own personal connection with it. I began my research through journaling and transitioned to informal conversations about living on the streets with people who identified as being homeless. I wanted to develop a process that would allow me to understand more about how I respond to displacement.
I began by examining the system that built up the framework of my understanding about poverty in the United States. Throughout my research I have discovered that there are a variety of factors that contribute to the issue of homelessness which included healthcare issues and mental health problems including substance addiction. I found that economic issues influenced the rise in homelessness due to a growing scarcity for jobs that pay above the poverty line, limited health benefits, decreased access to affordable housing and inadequate funding for low income families. I wanted to create artwork that would bring awareness and influence changing ideologies but first I needed to understand more about my own perspective.
An integral part of my research was keeping a journal to record my thoughts throughout the research process and to use the creative process of journaling as a therapeutic tool to examine emotionality and experience. My respect for journaling is rooted in my life as one of my best tools for reflection. It is based on my practice of spending a short time each day to use different art materials to create art that explore moods. My journals include many different forms of reflection which served as a catharsis to emotional distress and opened new avenues of thought I had not considered before. Journal entries consisted of a variety of drawings and paintings as well as reflective writing.
“Love in Unity”
This is an example of one of my journal entries that is based on photographs of graffiti I saw while studying abroad and exploring the emotions behind it be recreating the scene. This was my first real experience with graffiti and it profoundly impacted my view of the art form and how artists use it as a social platform. Photographs of graffiti serve as memory markers as well as other images taken throughout the trip. I saw this specific image painted on a school building with the words “Love and Unity” beside it during my derive through Paris. I encountered a variety of images that triggered thoughts about children and our responsibility towards them and their future. Recreating imagery has helped me to deeply reflect on specific moments in time.
This painting is an example of journal entries that were devoted towards analyzing a feeling associated with a memory of my experience with poverty. Approximately half of my entries of this type were representational while the others were more expressive and represented emotions, rather then figures and settings. This particular piece is a reflection on conversations I had with men I encountered on the street and my emotional reaction to it. Journal entries like this were used as a coping strategy throughout the process of my research as well as a technique that I will incorporate into later work and in further research.
The Final Art Pieces
Throughout the research project I wanted to complete a social justice artwork that would challenge viewers to think critically about poverty and their response to it. I had been deeply affected by this issue and despite being willingly vulnerable in discussing these issues, I was still left with some of deep feelings and trauma. I decided that I wanted to continue exploring new mediums as part of my emotional healing and journey for social justice.
This piece is multilayered and has it’s foundation in my use of a journal to alleviate stress and anxiety. While working on this project I constantly was reminded of the people I love who struggle with financial instability and are, or will be, homeless in the near future. Working on this project was a daily reminder of the powerlessness and frustration I feel to help those in need. I started writing their names on pages in my journals every time I thought of them. I noticed that by redirecting my attention I was beginning to soothe myself.
This piece evolved organically from it’s beginning stages into the final art piece today through examining my fears and anxieties and manifesting them through paint, marker, wax and airbrush. This multi-media project compiles all the negative thoughts and feelings associated with my mother’s situation onto a “body” and adorning her with thoughts of love, hope, and compassion. At each cycle of the mannequin something is added and something is taken away. Spots that were visceral and painful are covered, layer by layer, after each session until the essence of the anxiety has been addressed and serenity is restored.
I knew that I wanted to focus on the memories I have of elementary students who so inspired and delighted me with their dreams and aspirations for the future. I had never worked with ceramics before the fall 2016 but I was excited about the idea of building up a structure and using additive and reductive techniques to shape the form and develop its designs. As I worked I infused the piece with my own dreams of a brighter future for children— a future where every child is able to achieve their dreams and not suffer from the effects of childhood poverty. I began to recall times working with kids and sharing in their fantastic imagination for storytelling and include my own narrative into the porcelain. The delicate beauty of the material reminded me of the fragility and strength of childhood. The process of shaping it helped to foster positive feelings that encouraged the production of social justice artwork and fostered hope for future activism. This piece ultimately aided in my ability to focus on a difficult situation while also focusing on the potential for social change.
“Je suis à vous”
This piece culminates the emotional evolution of using art to directly confront the viewer with the image of child poverty. It calls to attention familiar scenes in urban settings which show adults in the same position and challenges you to think critically about how you feel about the subject. I seek to bring the question of why viewers feel differently about seeing displaced children versus adults and how that effects their ability to emotionally connect to the issues in front of them. Desensitization is explored in the familiar subject and setting with a singular form huddled amidst the shadows, isolated, alienated, alone, and yet on display for all the see (who are willing to see it).
I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to work on this project and would like to thank everyone who has shared their experience, strength and hope with me during my journey. A special thank you to my fellow scholars and staff who have supported me and to my dear husband and friend, Mark. I hope to continue this work and to explore more ways in which art can benefit the spiritual, psychological, and social issues people experience every day. Together we can make a difference if we can find our courage within.