I’ve been putting off this first blog post for a very long time and just now decided to bite the bullet. Welcome to my website and welcome to my media diary. I won’t be sharing specific details about my media projects, can’t have someone pick pocketing my ideas. But I would like to let y’all in on the emotional journey that I go through while creating.
Who knew that self-expression would be so emotionally draining? During past projects I’ve been surprised by how connected I feel to the final product. I go into projects thinking that while the project has come from my mind, it is still a separate entity outside of myself. When the process is over this is true, because I can’t control how people will engage with my work. However, I’ve discovered and come to take comfort in the idea that my projects will always be an extension of myself. How to explain this… I believe that it is impossible for people to engage with my art without also engaging with me – whether they know it or not.
I am very terrible at not expressing and not being myself. This is sometimes received well by others and sometimes not. Last week I attended a beautiful workshop led by Alexis Pauline Gumbs. Dr. Gumbs had us, in the workshop, write a letter to an ancestor. The ancestor I wrote to was my grandma that passed away when I was in the 8th grade. I took the loss very hard and still think about her nearly every day. My grandma and I were very close and until the workshop with Dr. Gumbs, nearly ten years after my grandmas passing, I couldn’t explain my deep connection with her, my attachment to her.
As ugly (yet beautiful) tears streamed down my face, I wrote the letter to my grandma. I thanked her for loving me as I was. For accepting every piece of my being. For seeing me, all of me. I love my family, I really do. But when I was younger it felt like my family only seemed to focus on my having cystic fibrosis. When my immediate family and I went to visit our extended family in South Carolina during the summer, everyone would always ask me how my health was doing, was I taking my meds, was I keeping up with my breathing treatments, yada yada. I knew they loved me, but it felt like they were so preoccupied with my health that they had forgotten I was an actual person. My grandma never forgot, though. She knew that I loved purple. She knew that I was addicted to ginger snaps (specifically the Nabisco brand with molasses). She was weirded out the summer I got addicted to using a sippy cup (they really are extremely convenient when you lay in bed all day watching TV). She bought me old lady pajamas because she knew I would wear them. So many things. So many memories. So much love that didn’t hinge on me having a severe health condition.
While my grandma was very involved in my health battle since I was a baby, I never remember it dominating our conversations. In fact, we didn’t speak much at all. We were somehow just… In sync when we were together, from the very beginning of my creation. We knew what to expect from one another. The love we had for one another was so undeniable. It spoke such volumes that we didn’t need to say anything.
Since she passed I’ve often found myself thinking “what would grandma think of this?” whenever I made an academic accomplishment, whenever I failed miserably, whenever I’ve made controversial art. I’ve been afraid to let her down. But in the workshop with Dr. Gumbs, while I wrote to my grandma, I realized that I could never let my grandma down… Her love runs too deep and it’s raining down on me every day from heaven.
Grandma Shirley Allen, all the work that I have ever done and will ever do is dedicated to you. Thanks for seeing me. I will always be your Ke-Ke.
Thanks for reading.
Much Love and Canned Peaches,