Urban Spaces: A Tale of Four Cities
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…