Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Memory Creating the Self: Genetic Memory and my Maternal Ancestors

Without memory, there is no culture.
Without memory,
there would be no civilization, 
no society, no future.
~Elie Weisel

Memory Creating the Self:
Genetic Memory Series

My last post was a few of the patrilineal paintings, and these are from my matrilineal side. (A few from each side were in my post about the reception.)

Here's some music from my reception playlist

The first two portraits I painted for the show, were of these gals. I'm not even sure how many times I went back into them. I started with sanguine color conté pencils to sketch in the portraits.

Normally, if I were working on canvas I would start with just a wash (thin layer of oil paint) of burnt sienna, over the whole thing, then draw the figures in with a brush and paint. On this project, however, because I wanted to let some of the wood show, I had to be more specific and carful not to stain the wood. 

Sedalia and Nancy

I was not even sure where the gold leaf was going to go on the paintings, until they were done. That was the case with most of pieces. Once they were done, I could tell where the gold "wanted to be."

Here, below, the brushstrokes on my great great grandmother Sedalia are very loose, as I am just finding my way around her face and trying to find some structure. The photo was very blown out and pale, with so little detail that I had to imagine it by looking at the shape of her cheekbone, in profile. (She's my maternal grandmother's paternal grandmother. Got that?!)

I must have gone into her portrait dozens of times, moving the ear, the earring, adding layers and layers to her face and softening her skin and then going in adding to the velvet jacket ... I just kept talking to her and trying to get the feel of her.  By the way, I would love to have her jacket! 

Lots of earth colors!

For those of you who missed my last few posts, here is my artist's statement for my solo show:

We are made of memory; genetic, experimental and body memory. We embody that which has come before us, as well as what we have experienced on our journey here. How much do we hold from our own past that we do not remember?

There are places and people we are linked with forever because they have left their mark on us. What is it that we will imprint on others and what will we leave behind?

My work integrates gold metal leafing, which incorporates memories of Thai temples and Italian altarpieces, from my own experience, as well as some deeper sense memory, that cannot be explained. There is a connection to history and tradition that I feel, as if I have been doing it for centuries.

And here is the finished painting ...

10 x 8"  
Oil on wood panel with gold metal leafing

You're never alone, 
even during what you think are your weakest moments.
You have thousands of years of powerful Ancestors within you,
the blood of the Divine Great Ones in you,
supreme intellect and royalty in you.
Infinite strength is always on tap for you.
Know that.
~Author Unknown

There are different kinds of gold leafing. This package I used for these ladies was "gold" on some kind of wax paper you rub on the backside of and hope it's actually sticking from the front side to whatever you are working on. I personally prefer the loose leaf.

Then you have to burnish and rub it down into the adhesive size (glue) because there are little "bubbles."

Nancy Jane, came out a little extra intense but I decided to just go with it.  (She was Sedalia's Mother- My great great great grandmother!) 

I did have to go back into a few spots where the gold didn't stick, add more adhesive size, wait for it to become tacky (It can't be wet) and then put more gold on those spots. Then I would wait a few hours and then put a layer of sealer over it so that it doesn't tarnish too much. If you use the real 24 carat gold leaf, it doesn't tarnish at all but the squares are tiny and much more costly.

Nancy Jane's maiden name was Pattie and her paternal grandfather was Sylvester Pattie, who I was told, was the first European-American to be buried in Califonia. He was born in Craig, Kentucky in 1782 and died in San Diego in 1828. 

There is a memorial by the Mission down in San Diego that reads "Sylvester Pattie: Pathfinder. Leader of the first party of Americans into Alta California over Southern Trails. Arrived at San Diego Presidio March 27, 1826. An officer in the war of 1812." Then it gives his birth, death and commemorates his son and others on the expedition. 

10 x 10" 
Oil on wood panel with gold metal leafing

A man finds room in the few square inches of the face
for the traits of all his ancestors;
for the expression of all his history,
and his wants.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

This painting, below was of my grandpa Milton's family. You will see that he's the little guy on the runner of the car. This one became the postcard of the show. 

The portraits of the kids faces are the size of my pinky nails. (And mine are very small!) I went through a LOT of 000 brushes. They had to have a perfect point and there was a lot of squinting involved (as well as new frown lines!)

The gold on this piece was the loose leaf type and I put it on in a more textured way, letting it crinkle and then filling in the spaces like a patchwork quilt. 

I loved the photo.  As soon as I saw it, I knew it had to be a painting but I though, Am I out of my mind? All the tiny figures ... and a car! Well, you never know what you are capable of until you give it a shot.  

The photograph was taken in Los Angeles, in 1924, but it reminded me so much of Dorthea Lang and the Dustbowl photos and it really was fun to paint!

9 x 12"
Oil on wood panel with gold metal leafing

We all grow up with the weight of history on us.
Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains
as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden
in every cell of our bodies. 
~~Shirley Abbott

This tiny painting of an old wedding photo, is the mother and father of lady in the previous painting, with the car. They are my Great great grandparents and they came up from Chile, just after they were married. They had their wedding reception at Olvera Street in the oldest part of Los Angeles. (I've done a lot of Olvera Street Posts on this blog!) At one point he owned a saloon! 

8 x 6" 
Oil on wood panel 
with gold metal leafing

After doing our DNA through (and making my great aunt spit in a vial) we figured out that my great-great grandma must have been 3/4 indigenous South American. It comes up just as "Native American" and it can mean North or South America. 

Our DNA also shows Iberian Peninsula so that makes sense with his surname being De La Barca, that his family would have come to Chile from Spain. (By the way Frida Kahlo was a De la Barca, as well!)

On my front stoop, before they were all loaded into the car  ...

And here are all 13 of the genetic memory paintings on the wall, at my show! 

There is so much going on in my head right now, it's been hard to sit still and focus on posting. The world is a crazy place, and our country is a crazy place, but for now I'll still be posting about the show, at least until I'm a little more grounded. Not sure when that will be but after "mysteriously" dropping 5 pounds, today my doctor prescribed "Taking a break from the news, and eating something!" (Not that I mind fitting into my old pants.)

Anyway ....
To see the post of the Solo Show Reception with more of the art, click here
To see the Body Memory Series from the show, click here
To see the Patrilineal Works, click here

I am listening to a deeper way.
Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me.
Be still they say,
Watch and listen.
You are the result of the love of thousands.

~Linda Hogan

Blessings and light!