Date of Submission
Academic Programs and Concentrations
Division of the Arts; Studio Arts
Project Advisor 1
Throughout this project, I struggled with feelings of inadequacy. Perhaps because the impetus, the jumping off point, was my own family’s history. The characters in these stories never quite felt real; they were larger-than-life figures whose actions shaped my own world. They came to America to escape religious persecution, they funded and fought in the Revolutionary War, they settled the West. They came, they built, they conquered. I wanted to find my voice and my place within their history, but it felt impossible to live up to. I felt relegated to the kid’s table in the kitchen. Children in general live in a world in which everyone is bigger and more important than they are-- and in which many things are off-limits. The stories I heard were tied to objects that I wasn’t allowed to touch; a mahogany table I was couldn’t sit at, carefully stored marble and bronze sculptures, a set of Wedgewood china placed in out-of-reach glass cabinets, portraits and carpets tucked away in rooms we used only on special occasions.
So for this project, I took advantage of this childhood distance from history. I created a space in which I could “play” freely with what had always been out of reach-- the stories I heard and the objects related to them. Imitating these characters and objects felt like a natural start. Imitation has an inherently child-like quality; we all once dressed up as princesses, or played house, or acted as cowboys or firefighters or detectives or superheroes. I was interested in the idea of imitation as a way to remove the anxiety I felt around this material, to create enough distance so that I could, finally, confront it directly. I came to understand that as the time between now and then shrinks, so do the figures in the stories.
It had seemed to me that, with each generation, things became less impressive. But I realized that that is the nature of history. Impressive stories are told and re-told until they are legends. Lesser stories are compartmentalized, packed away, and eventually lost.
Because I viewed the work as productive play, it began to take on the form of childhood games and toys. I played with scale, and merged child-sized things with the way things that are (in actuality) not so big, can seem enormous to a child. I was drawn to materials that I related to, things that were imitating objects I recognized from my own childhood. I saw us: me and my materials, as putting on airs, borrowing from history in order to elevate ourselves. After all, we are poor stand-ins for what once was.
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Porsella, Madeline Kinau, "Yesterday's Tomorrow" (2014). Senior Projects Spring 2014. 267.