Far more important, in fact, is the realization that
selfhood is shaped by a complex combination of influences, including
ethnic background, family expectations, personal relationships,
social and cultural norms and private goals. Formative experiences
are, therefore, a principal theme. Another is racial heritage, and
a third is the struggle of the individual to overcome repressive
Aviva Rahmani uses her art as a form of catharsis, in which she
comes to terms with an abusive father. Her "Requiem" project
is a meditation on love and forgiveness. In an affecting photo montage,
Ms. Rahmani internalizes her father's image, implying acknowledgment
of their blood bond. It also asserts her power to forgive, thereby
freeing herself from the burden of hatred.
The parental bond is touchingly expressed in Grace Graupe-Pillard's
cutout pastel "Portrait of My Parents." The couple is
shown inside a silhouette of a lone man in whose outline we see
flying cranes, symbols of fidelity. The pictures speaks of loss
and loneliness, but also of consolation to be found in memory, with
the artists as the agent who mediates between past and future.
The conventionalized self, as defined by outside forces and the
expectations of others, is the subject of Ms. Yerman's group portrait.
Parents and siblings are treated as smooth two-dimensional figures,
but are surrounded by allegorical clues to character. Halos framing
the parent's heads give them saintly overtones. Flaming ruins behind
a brother and sister allude to the Holocaust as a background to
present-day family unity. Another sister seems lost in an exotic
daydream indicated by a primitive mask behind her figure. Perhaps
this is her attempt to escape the strong forces of her Jewish heritage
that now bind the family together.
Yong Soon Min's "Back of the Bus" indicates even more
directly how the past must be reckoned with. The drawing based on
a snapshot of her mother and aunt in their native Korea, shows two
American G.I.'s starring in apparent curiosity at the two women.
At the bottom of the picture, the artist turns to stare out at us,
returning the gaze instead of avoiding it, as her relatives did.
She dares to confront the curious, to meet the alien culture head
on, as she must do every day in her adopted land.
Diosa Summers deals with the problem of feeling alien in one's
own country. A Choctaw Indian, she delves into the rich tradition
of the Ghost Dance and other Indian rituals, drawing sustenance
from them and perpetuating their magic as a tool for survival. Her
clay masks are designed not as disguises but rather as embodiments
of ancient forces that empower the wearer. Her personal desire to
be in touch with suppressed holistic tradition impels her to try
to share its wisdom and insights with a contemporary audience.
In "Daughter-Right," Maria Epes has created a private
talisman to guide in the establishment of a female persona. The
small, delicately crafted fetish, with its references to birth and
nurturing, affirms the lineage from mother to child as a positive,
life-giving destiny that this woman embraces gladly,
The effort to find an individual path in life is the subject of
Michele Godwin's two untitled monotypes. In one, a figure gropes
her way amid a tangle of choking vegetation; in the other, she emerges
into a clearing that glows with the blue of an unclouded sky. Her
way to fulfillment now seems clear.
Similarly, Janet Goldner symbolizes the journey toward self-realization
as emergence from a vessel that could be a sanctuary or a trap.
The classic "gilded cage" is equipped with ladders for
climbing in or out, depending on the individual's own aspirations.