I started grad school, for psychology, last September. Part of that was a family of origin project. My knowledge of my family has always been kinda sketchy. I knew I had some African American, but I had no idea how much, and exactly how it got there.
So I signs myself up for an account on Ancestry.com, to fill in the blanks; this project had to go back at least three generations, I went back four.
WOW! I was floored at what I found! First, that I have a lot of African in my heritage and I am actually a Creole. My third great grandmother came into the USA as a slave, from Cuba. I found out that I come from a long line of people “of color” as the records from Louisiana say.
I found out that I have some pretty talented relatives; Peter Albin from Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company. Matt Chesse, a very talented film editor; Ralph Chesse, a painter, and his son, Bruce, a powerful creative force in his own right, with puppetry.
I also have made contact with Bruce, who I have come to love, very much. All of it was worth it just to meet him! We have a connection; we both love art, puppets and life.
I haven’t met the other relatives, but I would like to sometime.
I also have found out that my family has been intimately involved in the fight for civil rights, from a petition signed by many of them, that was sent to President Lincoln, in order to get the vote for African Americans and Creole peoples. I had relatives marching with Dr. King. I’m pretty proud of them.
I’ve been working on a new piece about my third great grandmother, Justine Olivier. I’m doing a mosaic, a dress that is shaped to reflect the three sails of the ship that most likely brought her to New Orleans. It was very powerful to see her name on a slave manifest. I’m very light; almost fish belly white, sadly. This part of my heritage was really a taboo subject in my family.
This piece is 3D, and will be lit from within, with the light concentrated in the center, and directed towards her face. Her face will light the topsails.
Here are images of the piece’s progress:
After the canvas was draped, I then coated the canvas in fiberglass resin. That gave me a workable surface that takes a bit of time to harden, even with curing agent. That is the point, though, because it gives me a chance to soak the canvas, then to work it into what I want.
Next is the glass cloth and the fiberglass resin.
More on that tomorrow!