A series of 5 grayscale portraits done in oil over wood panels, which incorporate identity and iconography as cultural signifiers via abstracted patterned backgrounds. I work to interweave our heritage and celebrate both our maternal grandmother’s influence and preserve the individual’s identity within the backgrounds.
The purpose of this project was to investigate the relationship between heritage and identity using symbolism via the process of portraiture. For this project I set out to make a series of portraits of Paula Fernandez-Meza’s granddaughters with oil paint as the medium over wooden panels. While she has in total thirteen grandchildren, for this work I centered on five granddaughters, in which I included myself.
The process included interviewing the participants, scheduling a time to light, pose and photograph them in various poses to inform the individual portraits. After the questionnaire I asked them to each choose items of importance to symbolize their identity, personality and a symbol to represent our grandmother. Using the information given and the reference photograph chosen by the participants I created the work in a greyscale stylized manner in their likeness. The backgrounds include the symbols chosen by the participants; some are abstracted, others stylized into a pattern. Each portrait has a color chosen by the individual to represent their personality and is one they respond strongly to. Within the portraits, there is a line which runs through the work and when viewing the pieces together you can see how they connect to each other, the line is another symbol used to represent our grandmother.
In this work I wondered how each individual sees themselves and if being Mexican American has played an important role in the construction of their identity. I worked as both a portraitist and with the task of self portraiture. I aimed to preserve the perspective of this generation in our family for the following generation to reference and interact with. Another objective of making this project was to continue the conversation surrounding identity. How does it change? Is it affected by migration and is it influenced by our social interactions?
By looking at the connection between my grandmother's role in her granddaughter's development of cultural knowledge, I aim to highlight her influence in the preservation of our
Mexican roots. Our grandmother is represented throughout each portrait by using symbolism and I invite the viewer to look at the portrait series as a celebration of heritage.