Where personal lifetime is infinite, memory and ancestry represent the continuum-the thread of life. Why delve into the past? What might that search carry for the present and possibly for the future? Are we asking for blessings? Are we attempting to make someone alive and present who is physically deceased? Is there personal need to reconcile conflicting cultural influences?
Artwork that maintains a ritualistic continuation of ancestry is an almost universal aspect of folk tradition. Through image making the traditions and wisdom of predecessors is carried into the present.
Ancestral Memory is an exhibition of the work of eight artists who come from varied cultural backgrounds, all currently residing in the U.S. Each of these artists is dealing with ancestral imagery, transforming complex inherited legacies into a personal view. Additionally each artist is presenting an object or work of art that has been passed from generation to generation within the family.
Utilizing family photographs , Doris Bittar's photo constructions focus on issues of Middle Eastern history, past and present. She examines the intertwined relationships between peoples of the Middle East and those of the West. Bittar was born in Baghdad , Iraq , of Lebanese parents.
Born to Jewish parents from Baghdad, Joyce Dallal presents a video installation, Small Stories in a Language I Don't Understand. In a chamber, plush with her familial Middle Eastern carpet, Dallal projects images on a rice paper screen. The video overlaps view of the Los Angeles River with a text of translation of the Pledge of Allegiance into Judeo-Arabic. The voiceover is that of her mother speaking in Arabic about the Trigris River and family home in Baghdad . The piece navigates the ancient and the present, the personal and the political.
As a Chinese-American I have always been compelled by issues dealing with two intertwined but different heritages. One is best represented by my parentage and the way I look. The other is internal, unconsciously and consciously dictated by what is considered �American�. Betty Lee presents 5+ Infinity, a photographic exploration of five generations of Lee women which begins in 1891 with the artist's great grand-mothers, and ends with the youngest Lee female born in 1988.
Born in Rouen, France of Russian immigrant parents, Peter Liashkov exhibits the Russian Album series of prints, where he combines photographs, Xerox transfer and lithography to create a binding emotional connection to his family archive. Additionally Liashkov show Russ Flux silkscreen images in which he admittedly appropriates a decorative border device employed in the artwork of his mother. Liashkov says, I find that the enormous weight of the 20th Century continues to resonate in my psyche through the story of my parents' lives�
Born of Cuban/Puerto Rican parents, Kathy Mas-Gallegos came to Los Angeles in her youth at which point she adopted the Chicano community as family. But memory still persists, says Mas-Gallegos, through music, dance, food and at times the sound of Spanish spoken in that singsong Caribbean way. She presents small-scale personal constructions that explore both her physical and psychic links to the past.
Fifth generation carpenter from the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, sculptor and painter, Michael Lewis Miller presents works that link him traditionally to his ancestral past. Miller shows a large interactive table piece complete with food cooked with recipes handed down from his grandmother. I continue to work wood as my forefathers and have built the harvest table in the exhibition. I also continue to cook the family recipes� garden sew, quilt cook, sing and tell stories like my ancestors. Doing these activities of the 18th and 19th Centuries helps me keep a connection to the family past.
Dreams, memories and storytelling inform Dominique Moody's mixed-media constructions. Moody describes herself as a visual griot, the name given to wise and knowledgeable storytellers entrusted with the task of documenting tribal histories and genealogies. Born in Germany of African American parents, Dominque Moody presents mixed media constructions made of an eclectic assortment of found objects, transformed into dioramas and figurative tableaux.
Marianne Sadowski was born in Mexico to German and Mexican parents. Although she currently resides in Los Angele , Sadowski continues to teach and exhibit work in her native country. Both a painter and an installation artist, Sadowski present an altar dedicated to a specific community in the state of Puebla, Mexico. In this altar she employs elements of the traditions and culture that are still present in the every day life of this area. Additionally she will exhibit large-scale oil on canvas painting that bears reference to her ancestry.
Curator El Camino College Art Gallery