The Road to An Established Identity

October 27, 2009
By jg2747 BRONZE, New York, New York
jg2747 BRONZE, New York, New York
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Artist’s Note: The sheer number of serendipitous events that transpired to put us in this place and at this time is simply too staggering to consider. We are the products of events as large as the scope of human history and as small as an individual’s most private thoughts. We are the product of the mother and father who raised us. Our roots unweave an endless trail, connecting us to the experiences of those who navigated the world before us. We were all brought onto the earth, a blank canvas, with our identities painted on soon thereafter, dyed by the mottled splotches of our genetic lines and by the influences and experiences we encounter. Some influences we repel, while others we absorb; our bodies are smeared with the paint of others. This exhibit follows one individual, visually displaying where she came from and the influences that led to her identity.

You enter through a room filled with a single blank canvas. It is uncolored and untainted by anyone. Thus far, it has not been filled with the ideas and beliefs of others. It is a projection of new life, free from the limitations it will gain as it forms an identity. At this moment, it is a blank slate next to a palette of endless possibilities. It hangs there, waiting to be molded into the painting that it will one day become; it hangs there, ready to absorb. It hangs there, ready to repel.

At first glance, its first developed, distinguishing quality is its physical features. In the adjacent room hang two canvases on opposing walls. Your eyes immediately are drawn to the much larger canvas, its intricacy and depth luring you in. You observe in that canvas the layers that build on one another, each brush stroke relaying its sense of experience. The painting is an obvious product of years of refinement and development. Although the opposing painting is much smaller, your attention soon turns towards it. While it lacks the profundity and detail of its counter, it is instantly recognizable that it had been strung from the canvas sheet of the much larger painting. Your eyes turn back and forth between them. They share the same proportions and the same counter outline. Though one is filled significantly less, the styles in which they are both painted are analogous. Neither grabs your attention solely.

The next canvas is ruptured. As you walk through the room, your stomach turns, as it echoes the visuals of the paint spat and vomited on the canvas. The floor is filled with the ripped pieces of canvas; the intestines of the painting lie on the floor. The canvas is painted in dark, grotesque colors, its outer shell stained with the splotches of upheaval. The stench of the room is almost unbearable. There is no sense of life painted onto the canvas. It is deemed inferior; it ranks too low on any critical charts. It is stamped with the word “failure”. Its pain is all consuming; it is unable to display any other emotion. It looks sickly, vaporous, and weak. Almost destroyed. The caustic acid that flows through its internal stitching had burned the hands of its painter, as well, flowing through his hands and spilling over into a product of his creation. You internalize the pain that is reflected; the experience seeps in as you are directed through a corridor. You soon uncover a new room. The painting displayed here is a faded version of the previous canvas. Its old ruptures are now stitched together; its dark, grotesque splotches now only a washed out tarnish. It is far less disturbing than its former, but a small tint of the pain remains. The scars of its past are never fully healed.

The next room you enter displays an unfinished sketch. The paper is smeared with the smudge of erased pencil, hundreds of lines drawn and then removed. The sketch is shaded in light strokes, wary of its need to erase what does not appear perfect. Aligned across the remaining walls of the room are fifty-hand drawn sketches of the same folded hands. At first your eyes mislead you. They deceive you into thinking the sketches are identical, carbon copies of one another. As you look again, however, your eyes catch the subtle differences between each sketch. You walk through the room, noticing each progressive one is slightly more detailed, more authentic, and more striking than its former. Their lines are so meticulous, so precise. Their aim and need for perfection is evident, each one trying to outshine the last. You search for some end, some final form, a union of shape and substance, but these meticulous lines reveal only process and not achievement. There is a torture here, and you are eager to move on.

A large painting of an endless and spiraling road is hung upon the next room. Its strokes are airy and un-weighted, the road clearly traveled upon before. Its path is both familiar and warm. The tree painted in the corner is rootless, its trunk not fully settled in the ground. As you walk in, you can feel the ticks and tocks of a clock, placed in the middle of the room. Every two hours, the alarm of the clock rings and the painting is moved from one wall to another. At first the painting appears settled, comfortable in its new home. But its restlessness creeps forth, accustomed to the constant excitement of motion—its nomadic nature the product of the curator of its environment. You notice the light in the room, its rays splitting the path into diverging roads. You notice that the lone structure in the painting has no foundation, no concrete footprint to anchor it to the earth. The trees are in all phases of growth—some just saplings, others fully budded, others gray and stripped. You stare as you forget about the time. But the bell rings again, and the curator enters to move the painting once more to another wall.

The final room you are led through is covered by strokes of scattered paint. You, yourself, are given a palette and instructed to paint onto the wall-sized canvases. You watch as the wet paint masks over some of the already dried lines or merges together with the sodden paint of another. You watch as each splat of paint adds to the formation of the final product, bringing it closer to an established identity—to what it will one day become.

The author's comments:
This piece is a self reflective memoir about the significant influences, events, and emotions that have shaped who I am as a person thus far. We are defined as people by so many collective experiences it is fascinating to sit down and consider what moments or people really shape who we define ourselves as, and how these definitions can change so suddenly with a single stroke of influence. I hope this piece inspires those who read it to think about who they are as a person and who or what experiences has helped them become who they are.

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This article has 1 comment.

poop. said...
on Nov. 6 2009 at 9:47 am

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