// Loving / Passionate / Stubborn //
How would you describe who you are?
I would describe myself as a confluence of energies, ideas, feelings, memories, experiences and histories. I am someone who has been created to create, nurture and expand awareness. I suppose that’s what we all are. A unique constellation of all of the above and this is what I have done since I can remember.
Who are you from? Please tell me about them. How significant are they to you and why?
My ancestors are probably the most significant influences of my life. I am particularly influenced by the relationship I had with my Oma, my father’s mother and I had a very close bond despite being from vastly different worlds and generations.
As I have gotten older, I have deepened my awareness of the effect of displacement, persecution, colonialism and the intersectionality of my mixed heritage, first-generation Canadian status and the ancestral trauma that has affected my families.
I can now see with deeper understanding and empathy of the behaviours of my parents, John & Linda and begin to rewrite my own personal narrative in reverse, with a less focus on how I feel about things and more about what my people went through and how they survived, thrived, gave and received love.
Until recently, I have always seen myself in relation to my family and my community and in the last decade or so I have begun to expand my awareness to my place in the greater community of time, place and the big general story of humanity, recognizing at once my complete insignificance and great power simultaneously and what a privilege it is to be able to have time for such thoughts and creative moments, given that my peoples, especially the women, were so embroiled in domestic duties that I suppose, such reflections felt frivolous and inconsequential when survival was first and foremost.
This must be a natural progression of thinking from the self to a greater collective consciousness as we age. Experience means you start to see so much more beyond yourself and your needs/wants/desires and have gone through (either yourself or through others) so much more of LIFE, it’s inevitable.
Who are the key people in your life that have helped to define you? What aspect of you have they helped to define and how?
My parents – everything I wanted to be and everything I didn’t was found in two imperfect people who loved me as best as they could.
My Oma – she reminded me that great pain, trauma and suffering didn’t need to make you hard; that such pressure could soften you until you are so soft you are unbreakable and can expand and encompass more and more, it could help expand your ability to love.
My children – who have shown me how to become the best person I can be and what I need to heal.
Everyone who too has used me/ took me for granted and rejected my love – they helped me learn that there is a lot of pain and suffering in the world, that there is much to heal.
What do you think your legacy/impact on the world is currently? Why?
I wouldn’t know. I do think as each year passes you wonder more and more about it though. For me, I just want to leave the world a better place than I found it; sounds generic and glib but it’s the truth. I think of the “Campsite Rule, popularized by the columnist Dan Savage (with respect to an older person in a relationship leaving the younger person better than when they began a relationship with them) an analogy of the notion that you leave a campsite better than when you arrive, or at least as good as when you arrived: sometimes that means working for change at the macro level; the political, the cultural and in the systems and other times it is looking around your immediate environment; your home, your neighbourhood, your community and just doing the things the need to be done.
But that also means, to me, that we do better by our young people than was done to us. Know better, do better but also remember your actions have a legacy (both good and bad) that you may never fully understand and may shape an entire person’s life, be cautious and thoughtful in your interactions with young people and everyone around you. Your world is truly created by the energy you put out around you.
My beloved father died on April 3, 2019, unexpectedly and swiftly. He was planting flowers in his Texas garden, taken to the hospital the next day and gone before the sun set on the following day. His death, while leaving me with a gaping hole in many ways, also filled me with so many lessons beyond the obvious ones; life is short/you never know when you will go/etc. to a huge shift to what a legacy means.
What profoundly changed me was how people responded to his death. Grown men in his neighbourhood bawled at my parent’s doorstep in grief, high school acquaintances attended his memorials reflecting on how his kindness as a teenager still remained with them, a younger cousin who spent a couple of summers with his older one (my father) poignantly talking about the impact those 60 days of his life had on who he became and who he wanted to be – for the rest of his life, friends and relatives bringing forth stories of how he helped them, let them be themselves, encouraged them or how their interaction with him stayed with them in positive ways has been on my mind ever since.
As Maya Angelou said: people will forget what exactly you did or said but will always remember how you made them feel.
My Oma was like that: she made me feel so completely loved just as I am and he learned from her. She had the great power to make several great- grandchildren, 18 grandchildren and 8 children feel that they were special to her uniquely, which is no small feat.
I think of the legacies those who have left this world have left with us is the only thing that lives on. Our stories are embedded in one another, intertwined with one another.
What do you want your legacy/impact to be?
I would want my life and legacy to be simply:
She made things, she made things better, she made me feel like loving life, she made me love myself.
What does art mean to you?
Art is another language of communication. It is a most generous act, to create something that no one is asking for, to give to an audience who may not ever care about it, in order to share something to offer beauty, conversation, criticism, a vision. I feel like art is the original language, the primal one we all share, trying to connect that part of our consciousnesses that seem to elude our capacities. We use art to show ourselves as well as others, possibilities, potentialities, what is more beautiful and selfless as that?!
I believe everyone has a gift/talent. Do you know what yours is? If so, what gift or talent do you believe you own that you would like to give to the world?
I have spent a lot of time thinking of this even before this question. I think mine is LOVING. I try to give it as often and as liberally as I can.
Unconditional love is something we all crave but seem completely ill equipped to give. Someone has to start, however imperfectly.
If a complete stranger had to walk a thousand miles in your shoes, what piece of advice would you give them beforehand?
I would tell them to get comfortable being alone, even in a room full of people wanting to know you and be with you.
Few people will “get you” and you will spend a lot of time in your own company and that’s ok, leaving you more time to read and get into your ideas and thoughts. You are maybe not for this time, but what you do now will have an impact later even if this impact is not in a flashy and external way. Knowing that helps you avoid feeling too lonely and will serve to remind you that what you are mulling over, wrestling with, trying to show in your work and activities, is important.
Your only job is to live your one wild and precious life.
With dignity & respect,
photographed by: Lee Hon Bong
directed by: Lee Hon Bong
artwork by: Stacey MacNevin
makeup by: Christa Pauwels
filmed & edited by: Lee Hon Bong
assistant: Cony Arakaki Purizaga
location: Esperanto Gallery
music: Encomium - Evan Schaeffer (CC BY 4.0)