This is my second artist talk and the first one where I did not lose my shit. I cried throughout my first artist talk. It spurred me on to seek counseling, so I guess not all was lost.
The following is the text, which I read straight from the paper, because I’m not savvy enough to talk in conversation form and because it helps to have something to focus than all those faces staring back at me. Scroll down to see a few photos.
I told Maggie Yee when she came over to put plaster on me that whatever happens to the piece, it is already successful in my eyes. Even if it “fails expectations”, it is still a success. So we began. I was not after perfection. I was after authenticity, love, forgiveness and joy. Humor is a byproduct.
First I will discuss my background. Second, I’ll talk about how I came up with the idea. Third, I’ll briefly talk about my performance because I haven’t talked about it. Lastly I’ll wrap it up somehow, but there isn’t a really good conclusion.
After multiple attempts at answering this simple question of what a Place of My Own would be like, I believe this year I have finally answered it (for what feels true at this time.) Three years ago, my life was fueled with “plans that go awry”: In my family, all the women in my generation and the previous two generations have given birth to as many as 17 children to as little as one. Yet, I could not even get pregnant. I was raised in the Catholic faith, where everyone stayed married, even if they were in unhappy marriages because that is what you do, and it was revered even for putting others’ needs ahead of theirs, yet I divorced (though I’d like to credit my oldest sister, Tina, for being the true cycle breaker). Goals that have been instilled in me for over 30 years were suddenly no longer in reach. Recently I have been working on letting go of beliefs that my life is meaningless without marriage and children (mostly children or even one child), and instead on discovering what is meaningful and authentic for me, and creating my own version of family.
Thanks in large part to Maggie Yee’s Studio Euphoria, she showed me that a Place of Your Own does not have be rooted in reality. Once I understood that, the idea came to me easily. I want to create my own fantasy world in which I have options to be any or a combination of the following: tree, human, miniature, introverted, and extroverted. I’ve been growing plants professionally since I was 16. I often imagine myself as a plant to find out what the plant needs. I chose a tree because I didn’t want to be an annual or a perennial. I wanted to be a tree because trees represent growth, resilience and strength. Even though being a parent will most likely not be in my future, I want to believe that I can still grow as a person and live a fulfilling life. I can be extroverted and do a performance art, or maybe take it a notch down, blend in with the masses when I dance with Bay Area Flash Mob, or indulge in my introverted nature and stay hidden to recuperate and recharge, or stay miniature and be a little mischievous. I used my body as the basis for the tree trunk because I want to define, be clear about and defend my boundaries. I am no longer interested in accommodating others at my expense, making room for others without regards to my own needs. I don’t want to be a martyr. My body represents my own specifications, including the scars that I’ve been embarrassed about showing. Only those who can respect and conform to my specifications can enter my Place. Once I said this idea aloud, I knew I would manifest it, even though I had no experience with plaster or how to defy gravity.
The performance aspect of it has been on my mind since 2011, when I saw the film Pina, where the dancers’ emotions and senses of individualities were prized. Prior to this, my exposure to dance performances have been more formal (and thus stressful), emphasizing on techniques, traditions, societal notions of beauty, and superficial appearances, where the standards were impossible for me to reach. My performance was inspired by a conflict that happened at work involving lupine seedlings and I wished for a different narrative for them and for me. I wanted them to thrive without resource limitations, such as light.
In the beginning was a seed and then she germinated. She followed the path of the sun because she wanted to maximize photosynthesis production. She is able to withstand various weather conditions including extreme wind, rain and heat (because this is based on my California native lupines) and remains resilient. Then in my world, she grew up to be a tree.
With meditative and art guidance led by Trinity Ordona and Cynthia Tom, respectively, and being in a supportive environment, getting to a point to come up with an idea of a tree was only half the journey. The other half was manifesting the idea, which took experimentation, collaboration, acceptance, faith, love, tears, and encouragement by many supportive people.
I don’t have a good conclusion. This is an ongoing process. I do know that a 6 month long course isn’t going to solve anything. In fact, it will just open up new problems. The beliefs that hold me back and all of the family patterns affect other people, not just myself. When I decided to push back against those beliefs, they were also affected, because it meant they had to do something about it (or their role in it). I will admit that although I have finally come up with an answer and birthed this new species, there are still old beliefs lingering inside me that hold me back. I confess that although I loved the process of working with Maggie, the process of making my new piece, and love my piece as it is and as it has evolved, showing it in public was another matter. I feared the public will judge me, my imperfect being, and my art, that my efforts were to be met with suggestions on how to improve it next time, so much that about a week prior to installation, I wanted to title my piece: I know it’s crap and I don’t want to hear your opinion. I almost didn’t show it until the day the statements were due, because this fear was so overwhelming, except it was all in my own head. But I didn’t use that title because Cynthia said it would just tempt them to share their opinions. I want to have faith in the universe for trusting me with the idea because for most of the time, I felt like I MUST make this regardless of it being exhibited. I felt I was a vehicle for the art. Eventually, my art and I ended up here because of the following supportive people: Maggie Yee, Cynthia Tom, Trinity Ordona, Judith Nihei, Rachel Michaelson, Carolé Acuña, Larissa Pico, Chantelle Goldwaithe, Jessica Serran and her KYAITS (keep your ass in the studio) group, Charley Paff and the Live Oak painting group, Brian Garvey, Brad Friedman, all A Place of Her Own sisters, and also because I listened to my heart.