Family Rituals

I am writing from Greenville, South Carolina. I've come here to support my little sister as she has just given birth to her first daughter. When I was little, I remember that whenever my mom had a baby (I'm the oldest of four), there was an exciting visit by grandparents and aunts and uncles, during which they would help out around our house and hang out with me, as my mom recovered. When I found out my sister was due right at the end of my school year, I was excited to be able to offer her the same support.

To backtrack, May was crazy. From the People's Joy Parade, to a SLAM school artist residency, to the wrapping up of my college and then middle school classes, it was a time of community rituals and transitions.  Rituals and traditions have been on my mind these past few weeks, particularly in my studio.
End of School year play

There are a series of thoughts or questions I explored that led me to this point.

With Witnessing Whiteness, we talked about how an aspect of whiteness is not having to think about it.  So I began to think about whiteness.  I started with questions- what are underlying white norms that are invisible to me?  I created lists based on books I'd been reading or things I heard in conversation.  This led to a series of artworks.  Such as:

Individualism, Self Reliance, and Exploration.

The Desire to be Innocent
 On a personal level, I asked myself questions about my family:
What is my ethnic and cultural identity?  Who were my ancestors?  What were their traditions and beliefs?  What remains of these ideas?

What was Czech?
Grandpa's Cornucopia

As I began to sit with the feeling that little remained of my ancestor's cultural traditions in my day to day life, I felt a huge sense of loss and emptiness. No language, no food, no clothes, no crafts, no stories. I was sharing this sense of loss as I had a studio visit with a few people from Ireland. One person said to me something to the nature of, "and yet there is so much culture, tradition, and ritual, here." And this made me check myself. I started to ask myself the question- what traditions, rituals, and values are present or have been created? What does my family and community continue or carry on? The funny thing to me is that this blog was started based on looking at rituals, art, and traditions, so it is wild to me, that I have come back to that question, but with eyes more open.

About a month ago, I spent an afternoon looking through family photographs and pulling out repeated traditions, images, places, moments, and these are serving as a basis for a series of small paintings I am making. This piece of present traditions, seemed to be what was missing from the overall research. I plan to continue making these paintings.

Horseback ride
Christmas Lights
Card Players
On another note, I'm reading this book called Working Towards Whiteness: How America's Immigrants Became White. It is filling in the blanks for me about why my immigrant ancestors where quick to assimilate and the nature of cultural loss, suburban development, and popular cultural norms, to name a few.  I am interested to see what I'll be making once I've completed the book and have synthesized the information.  

In the meantime I'm here supporting my sister, participating in one of my family's post-birth rituals, being a helper.  I'm slowing down.  Cooking meals. Painting pictures.  It's kind of like a residency vacation with a good sprinkling of soulful baby time.  I'm singing songs to my niece the baby, whispering hopes for her future and connecting with my sister about what is it like for her as a new mom.

Me and My Niece.


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