24x24x2 Oil on Canvas
Home on the Rock
"Home on the Rocks" is a Painting I created from the Banks of my summer home in Guilford, Connecticut. It is an idyllic New England coastal town surrounding me with rocky shores, boats, water, birds, and a community.
“That which is held in common is simultaneously responsible for diversity.”
What does it mean to you to be an American? National Identity is represented by distinctive traditions, culture, and language. Within the confines of national identity comes a whole subset of "personal" identities such as European, African, Indian, Arabic, or Latin. Perhaps you identify with many of these and maybe none. Geography is often at the center of identity. Where we were born, where we grew up, and where we choose to live is an integral part of defining self. It can either be embraced or resisted, but it is always present. As an American, I am commonly asked what my nationality is. My response is: I am of the common Northern European variety. Unlike many other people in my town, I cannot cite a specific ancient land where my descendants came from, nor do I feel the need. I do know that someone in the 1600s crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower, and 400 years later, here I am -but that does not define me. It is just a story that explains my fair skin and bone structure, but reveals little about who I truly am. It does not inform my character, beliefs, attitudes, or preferences.
July is the month of Nationhood recognition in the United States. Belonging to a nation, I have come to appreciate it as a privilege. A privilege I am fortunate to have taken for granted most of my life. I grew up celebrating and embracing my heritage. Last winter, I watched the newsreels of the Lithuanian refugees streaming out of their own country to seek safety. It is estimated that over 6 million people lost a homeland. Since the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar ll in the 6th century BCE, people have been forced from their own land and required to invent new stories. All of this while grappling with a loss of cultural identity and cultural norms and customs as a result. I recently read a fantastic book called "The Island of Missing Trees" by Elif Shafak. The book is written through the eyes of a fig tree but is primarily about a sixteen-year-old girl mourning the loss of her mother and looking for answers about her Greek heritage and the loss of a homeland during the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cypress. It explores Transgenerational Trauma: the psychological and physiological effects that the trauma experienced by people has on subsequent generations in that group.
"Trees are never lonely. Humans think they know with certainty where they're being ends and someone else's starts. With their roots tangled and caught up underground, linked to fungi and bacteria, trees harbour no such illusions. For us, everything is interconnected."
ELIF SHAFAK, THE ISLAND OF MISSING TREES
An understanding of culture requires an understanding not only of language differences, but also differences in knowledge, perceptions, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. Is it possible to embrace more than one culture at the same time? Absolutely. Many friends identify with places other than the United States, but celebrate the fourth of July as a way to come together with fellow Americans. Here in the United States, unless you are Native American, we all come from different parts of the world. Yet collectively forge customs that become uniquely American, forming a common bond. In this country, part of that bond is a belief in individualism.
We are not all the same, but we are invited to share in summer celebrations in the heart of the long summer days. I grew up watching firework displays on the water and getting roasted marshmallows stuck in my hair around the campfire. I was surrounded by family and friends, playing backyard games and telling stories. National holidays are a great time to consider what parts of your culture or environment you want to hold onto and how they bind you to a community. What traditional foods do you enjoy, and what memories do you keep. What traditions should be passed to the next generation, and what parts of culture are best to let go. Change over time can be good. It is too easy to focus on what is wrong. Holidays can be a great time to set aside and appreciate what is here before us that is wonderful. Delve into your family's culture and traditions in the summertime, and maybe start new rules of your own to carry into the future.
During these days of summer celebrations, with American flags waving, it is reassuring to be a part of America. With all its flaws and problems, it is a home. There isn't one America; it is a collection of many types. 330 million people are bound together. We disagree on politics, holidays, what Gods to worship, what foods to eat, and even what to do during the National Anthem. We don't know if the enemy is within or abroad. There isn't a common culture or national identity. But this is exactly what makes Americans American. We can disagree. We can enjoy different things. We can argue amongst ourselves. We can be vegans and meat-eaters. We can march for laws and cheer for sports and debate social problems. It's not a perfect system, but it's an evolving adaptable one. I would love your thought on this.
"Love is like a tree; it sprouts forth of itself,
sends its roots out deeply through our whole being,
and often continues to flourish greenly over a heart in ruins."
—Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame
If you want to know more about this painting or any other I have for purchase, don't hesitate to contact me!