Pieces of paper; pieces of life; pieces of me
I am working on a series that has made me think about construction and reconstruction, about interpretation and reinterpretation –not only of shapes, and lines, and colors on pieces of paper, which are the tangible materials in the work of art I am focused on at the moment– but, if I may use the analogy, of lives: Construction, reconstruction, interpretation, and reinterpretation of lives and of selves.
Working with plain paper, painting over it and seeing how the first color changes the texture and the color of the paper; seeing how when I add a second color, the first color changes, and how adding water to the mix heightens the changes that are occurring: More water makes the color more subtle, more transparent, lighter, and less water leaves the color less altered, less transformed from the original dense color that originally came out of the tube. All of this makes me think of how contact with other elements, plunging into different environments from the original environment where we came from has the possibility of transforming who we are: We have the potential of transcending and metamorphosing into something new, even if the essence of who we were continues to reside somewhere within us. Working with this also makes me think of time and memory: If time and memory are like the water I am adding to the color, if our originally lived experiences are like the color that initially came out of the tube, which then touches the water and becomes less intense, more subtle, less recognizable of the thing itself that originally was, then I can understand, for instance, why when I close my eyes, no matter how hard I try, I cannot quite remember my late grandmother's eyes and how they looked at me so tenderly and welcoming so many seemingly infinite times. This lived experience is something that resides within me, but I can no longer see it in my memory as I once did when she was in front of me, something has diluted, no matter how hard I try to rescue it as once was.
And then, I draw lines on the painted paper: Some are intentional, some are accidental, and some are born from mistakes, from trying to cover up something that I didn't really want to have in my composition. Then I cut the paper, and I arrange the cut pieces with other cut pieces that have undergone the same process. Not one of them is the same. They are all unique, and different, and I like some better than others. Here again my work compels me to draw similarities between it and my own life. I see that my life is made up of moments, some are absolutely trite and unimaginative and others are rare and miraculous; some moments are full of serendipity, coincidences and have come to be by a chain of sheer unpremeditated moments which I mostly have had nothing to do with: My birth is the main one I can think of, but there are many others. And still there are other moments which have been deliberate, intentional and contain elements of wilful determination and which have required hard work and my best and most remarkable efforts.
Finally, when I'm done painting and drawing and cutting and I have a pile of pieces of cut paper, I put them together and arrange and re-arrange them to make a final composition. I do this all the time with my own life as well. The final composition of my own life won't be finished until I am gone from this world, but in the meantime I realize how I am leading a life where I am constantly arranging and re-arranging the moments –the pieces, the lived experiences of my life– and putting them together differently. I can interpret different things about myself, depending on how I am arranging the pieces of my identity, of myself: I can imagine for instance, that I am an unskillful, procrastinating novice on some days or a competent and curious expert on others; an inadequate mother or a devoted mother; a keen academic, an aspiring artist; an enthusiastic and vital partaker in things or a profoundly solitary individual; I can see myself as deeply concerned about things, or apathetic and detached; I can imagine that my circumstances constrain me, that a set of conditions are stifling, or that my constraints force me into a better being and push me to reimagine myself even within those limitations, and so on and so forth for so many other aspects of myself.
And these are only the more superficial interpretations I draw. On a deeper level, I see my identity as something that contains an essence, but is also constantly changing. I can only explain this by understanding my identity as inevitably evolving and constantly unfolding, and this is coupled with a persistent endeavour of self-understanding. So, where does this all go? Why does it matter? Well, we understand ourselves in a particular way at some point in our lives and then something happens, a piece of ourselves is maybe turned upside down, or we see something new, or we read a book, or come into contact with someone who inevitably transforms us –a new shape or a new color, let us say metaphorically– which tinges us in a new shade or contextualizes us differently, which adds new tones, nuances and dimensions to our selves, thus allowing us to become something and someone new. Perhaps what matters about this is the understanding, that our life oeuvre isn't finished until we decide it's finished of course, or until we refrain from mutability by no longer wanting to change, or until we are no longer able to change, or no longer on this earth to continue the work of self-expansion, but until then we are all open to the possibilities which we allow; to the colors and the textures that we allow to permeate us.