Odyssey (2018)

Rhode Island School of Design BFA Thesis Collection

 

    My family celebrates my adoption day like a birthday as we don’t know precisely when or where I was born. As an adopted child, my sense of legitimacy is mystified by an absence of origin.  As a queer person of color, that legitimacy is further threatened by white supremacy and heteronormativity. Odyssey is a narrative in which I am the protagonist, embarking from an uncharted genesis.  This collection of artifacts manifests formative biographical moments into beautiful objects, allowing me to reframe their context and analyze their impact on my being.  By methodizing a constellation of disparate events, I create a vantage point from which the amorphous clarifies and the obscure saturates. I venerate the undesirable, elevating them so that they may instead become the envied.

I am allowed to occupy space.

I am obligated to grow.

I deserve to exist.

 

Eden     22” x 6.5” x 4.5”  Resin, glass beads, mother of pearl, pearl, silk thread, sterling silver, coral, sugar, sand  It is a powerful thing to be forming within the body of a person who knows that they cannot keep you even though they want to.  My birth mother was also adopted.  She was 16 years old and unmarried when I was born.  She never knew her biological family, as I have never known mine.  From what I understand through the testimony of the nuns at the orphanage, my biological mother’s adoptive mother was abusive to her.  Despite the fact that she wanted to keep me, she knew that doing so would subject me to the abuse that she was suffering.  By letting me go, she was protecting me.

Eden

22” x 6.5” x 4.5”

Resin, glass beads, mother of pearl, pearl, silk thread, sterling silver, coral, sugar, sand

It is a powerful thing to be forming within the body of a person who knows that they cannot keep you even though they want to.  My birth mother was also adopted.  She was 16 years old and unmarried when I was born.  She never knew her biological family, as I have never known mine.  From what I understand through the testimony of the nuns at the orphanage, my biological mother’s adoptive mother was abusive to her.  Despite the fact that she wanted to keep me, she knew that doing so would subject me to the abuse that she was suffering.  By letting me go, she was protecting me.

Eden  (detail)    22” x 6.5” x 4.5”  Resin, glass beads, mother of pearl, pearl, silk thread, sterling silver, coral, sugar, sand

Eden (detail) 

22” x 6.5” x 4.5”

Resin, glass beads, mother of pearl, pearl, silk thread, sterling silver, coral, sugar, sand


March 17, 1998     7”x.75”x.5”  18k yellow gold, sterling silver, stainless steel  On the 17th of March, 1998, the most pivotal moment of my life occurred.  On that day I was legally adopted by my parents, my identity was rewritten, my birth name redacted from my birth certificate and replaced with the one I call my own. This brooch immortalizes that moment.

March 17, 1998 

7”x.75”x.5”

18k yellow gold, sterling silver, stainless steel

On the 17th of March, 1998, the most pivotal moment of my life occurred.  On that day I was legally adopted by my parents, my identity was rewritten, my birth name redacted from my birth certificate and replaced with the one I call my own. This brooch immortalizes that moment.


(Culture) Orphan    14”x8”x3”  Duplicates of my American Citizenship papers, cotton thread, glass beads  I distinctly remember knowing that I was different from other children when I started elementary school because it was the first time that I realized I wasn’t white. At that point I had yet to grasp what I  was,  but I began to understand very clearly what I  wasn’t .  I felt as though I somehow deviated from the way children are supposed to be, what they are supposed to look like, and where they should come from.  A culture orphan is an individual who straddles the ambiguous space between two cultures but never fully belongs to either. This work assumes the format of a traditional Filipino sampaguita lei.  These garlands would be worn during religious festivals, weddings, or celebrations.  The sampaguita, Filipino jasmine, is the national flower of the Philippines.

(Culture) Orphan

14”x8”x3”

Duplicates of my American Citizenship papers, cotton thread, glass beads

I distinctly remember knowing that I was different from other children when I started elementary school because it was the first time that I realized I wasn’t white. At that point I had yet to grasp what I was, but I began to understand very clearly what I wasn’t.  I felt as though I somehow deviated from the way children are supposed to be, what they are supposed to look like, and where they should come from.  A culture orphan is an individual who straddles the ambiguous space between two cultures but never fully belongs to either. This work assumes the format of a traditional Filipino sampaguita lei.  These garlands would be worn during religious festivals, weddings, or celebrations.  The sampaguita, Filipino jasmine, is the national flower of the Philippines.

(Culture) Orphan   (detail)  14”x8”x3”  Duplicates of my American Citizenship papers, cotton thread, glass beads

(Culture) Orphan (detail)

14”x8”x3”

Duplicates of my American Citizenship papers, cotton thread, glass beads


Game of Tag (front)

4”x6”x.5”

epoxy resin, stainless steel

One of my final memories at my old Middle School happened during my wood shop class towards the end of the second semester.  A classmate of mine who grew up in a Neo Nazi family thought it would be funny to burn me with his hot glue gun at the end of class.  He started to chase me around the room with it and tried to corner me.  He wore a military uniform decorated with patches to school every day.  Game of Tag is a badge for him.  


Abomination

26”x6”x.5”

sterling silver

After transferring out of the middle school in my district to a private Catholic high school in Providence, Rhode Island, I began to experience the effects that three years of bullying had scarred me with.  It sewed the seeds of a deep rooted sense of shame, a shame so powerful that it prevented me from telling anyone what was happening to me.  Coinciding with the unpacking of this trauma, I was becoming aware of my sexual orientation.  With no time to catch my breath, the shame and isolation intensified.  

This piece is a necktie for my school uniform. 


CLOSET

32”x27”x6”

Remains of my childhood closet bedroom door, nylon cord, pearl

Coming out is not a moment, it is an ongoing experience that queer people endure throughout their lifetime.  Although the closet of my childhood has long since shattered, the weight and fear of not knowing how or when to reveal this truth still lingers.  


Sometimes I Hear People Laughing At Me But Nobody’s There

4”x.4”x.4” each

sterling silver

There’s an assumption that lies can only be grounded in deceit.  I believe some of the most powerful acts of love can be lies.  Sometimes we tell the people we care about the most that we are ok when they ask us how we’re doing.  We tell them a lie to save them the pain of knowing the truth, because we love them.

Photography: Rob Chron 2018


“Dear Mom and Dad,”

4”x3”

sterling silver

There’s an assumption that lies can only be grounded in deceit.  I believe some of the most powerful acts of love can be lies.  Sometimes we tell the people we care about the most that we are ok when they ask us how we’re doing.  We tell them a lie to save them the pain of knowing the truth, because we love them.


Beat For The Gods     12”x5”x.5”  Epoxy resin, cosmetics, steel wire, sterling silver  This piece is about my growing relationship to queerness and my affinity for makeup.  To me, makeup is about transformation, subversion, and celebration.  For those that wear makeup, we all have a routine that we follow, but rarely recognize the parallel between the application of cosmetics and meditation.  These prayer beads are cast from my makeup products and strung in the order in which I apply them.  Each bead constitutes one minute of my routine.

Beat For The Gods

12”x5”x.5”

Epoxy resin, cosmetics, steel wire, sterling silver

This piece is about my growing relationship to queerness and my affinity for makeup.  To me, makeup is about transformation, subversion, and celebration.  For those that wear makeup, we all have a routine that we follow, but rarely recognize the parallel between the application of cosmetics and meditation.  These prayer beads are cast from my makeup products and strung in the order in which I apply them.  Each bead constitutes one minute of my routine.


Bull**** Fight

13”x26”x13”

steel, paper, rice paper, paint, brass hardware, nylon cord, satin, embroidery trimmings,

Growing up in the United States I am expected to uphold certain norms of masculinity and “manhood.”  I’ve come to understand that I don’t subscribe to these norms and that despite this I am not less of a man.  Men are taught when they are boys that in order to become a man they must strive for superiority.  Honor is bred through confrontation, not communion.  We are taught how to swallow our emotions.  These shoulder pads are a celebration of my sensitivity; queerness is my armor.  I may play on your team, but I don’t play for the same game.  


Bull**** Fight

13”x26”x13”

steel, paper, rice paper, paint, brass hardware, nylon cord, satin, embroidery trimmings

Growing up in the United States I am expected to uphold certain norms of masculinity and “manhood.”  I’ve come to understand that I don’t subscribe to these norms and that despite this I am not less of a man.  Men are taught when they are boys that in order to become a man they must strive for superiority.  Honor is bred through confrontation, not communion.  We are taught how to swallow our emotions.  These shoulder pads are a celebration of my sensitivity; queerness is my armor.  I may play on your team, but I don’t play for the same game.  

Photography: Dennis Krawec 2018


Epilogue    4.5”x6”x3.5”  3D printed resin, epoxy resin, spray paint  Healing is only acquired through the proper vantage point and gratitude for what is then beheld.  

Epilogue

4.5”x6”x3.5”

3D printed resin, epoxy resin, spray paint

Healing is only acquired through the proper vantage point and gratitude for what is then beheld.