Frontiers offers a visual representation of my experience of multiculturalism, depicting an inner world of multiple languages, religions and cultural landscapes embedded in the mind as fragmented memories in search of wholeness. Having grown up between France and the United States with frequent travels worldwide greatly influenced my vision and understanding of the world. Culturally, I am French, American, Algerian; raised among Jews, Atheists and southern Baptists; married to a Muslim and the mother of child who will carry all these cultures with him into a new generation. Because I fit into multiple molds of culturally defined identities, I find myself more of an observer than a participant, living my life in the 2nd person; revising, editing and melting into the landscape. When home is everywhere and nowhere there is an incessant mental revision that makes reality ambiguous and the search for coherence becomes an instinctual reconstruction of memory through the fusion of place and time.
Influenced by an aesthetic and theoretical framework that is inspired by my readings of Hélène Cixous and Anaïs Nin as well as a childhood fascination with the work of René Magritte, these images place doubt on the perceived object, rendering them poetic yet strangely disturbing in their inability to be defined. My childhood desire to crawl into Magritte’s paintings has been profoundly significant in the composition of my images. Hidden in our world are multitudes of other worldly possibilities that cannot be perceived without a deconstruction. In that vein, these diaristic images seek to deconstruct the visual vocabulary in which we feel so comfortable. Imagery is text to the extent that we attempt to mentally define what we see everyday with words. When we travel between different cultures and landscapes those definitions often do not fit our preconceived notions and we search for ways to describe the indescribable. My understanding of other cultures has come from breaking through those predefined cultural and physical landscapes to the point of reinventing my own vision. This work places doubt on what we see, questioning whether the world can be viewed differently than we have constructed it socially.
"It is my image that I want to multiply,
but not out of narcissism or megalomania,
as could all too easily be believed: on the contrary,
I want to conceal, in the midst of so many illusory
ghosts of myself, the true me,
who makes them move."
--Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night Traveller
My life is a dialogue in which more than one self is present. There is the physical self who feels and experiences and another self who observes. This other self flows in and out of me. She may be the one who experiences an emotion from within or may be an outsider coming in on a scene. The other is liberating and suffocating…critical and supportive…childlike and experienced…beautiful and ugly. No matter what I do, this multiplicity never fades nor would I want it to, for it is the essence of what makes me whole.
When does your portrait become mine?
As a child my parents dragged me through museum after museum during our summer travels. At the time I did not realize the effect those visits would have on me. I always loved portraits. I would stand before them, questioning who the people were, what they were thinking, feeling, etc. So many times I wished I could be that person or interact with that person. Perhaps we have all had a desire to crawl inside a painting at some point, to be somewhere else, to be someone else…to invent another world for oneself. I wanted to be that person for just one moment in time.
This project is an extension of that desire, but it has a double significance. By appropriating 16th-19th century portraits I am at once living a childhood dream while allowing myself to be an imposter, a thief. The images not only speak to my desire to be someone else, they also compel me to question the validity of the personal portrait. As I recompose them, I am forced to ask whether in today’s digital culture a portrait can have any real significance at all. In a world saturated with identity theft and online government spying there is a growing anxiety about losing what one holds to be most basic to human nature – one’s unique character and inimitability. How much of the original was true to begin with? How much was an idealized or romanticized vision by the artist? How much of myself is real and how easily can someone come and take my place?
This is a series of snapshots taken during my visits to Morocco over the last few years. Of course Morocco is known for its richness of culture, food and landscape, but what makes Morocco so captivating and beautiful to me is the contrast of that beauty with the fragility of a culture and society still finding its way...a dying culture making way for a new world. The contrasts are remarkable as one travels through the cities and countrysides. It is a place where modern technology mixes with ancient traditions, where disintegrating slums serve as a backdrop for exquisite mansions, where donkey drawn carriages race against the latest Mercedes SUV on roads full of potholes alongside a brand new modern tramway system. To be in the midst of this evolution makes me feel alive. Coming from a modern world, I feel sad for the impending loss of cultural traditions that are beautiful and centuries old, but positive about the progressive thinking that I hope will come out of the change.