The Beautiful Struggle (2008)
I have never met my biological father who is black. My biological mother is white. I have decided to find my father.
The Beautiful Struggle is a series of self-portraits that serves as a starting point for this journey of self-discovery. I say self-discovery because I believe that my father's story is a story that has shaped my personality in a profound way. Because I didn't have the balance of a black voice growing up I have felt like an outsider for much of my life. I like to say, "I am white around my black friends and black around my white friends," as a way to describe how I feel most of the time. I grew up in a white family structure that was unable to prepare me for the outside world that would judge me for being black, or mixed, or other.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, black people are overwhelmingly accepting of me because of the diversity within the African American community, but I feel out of place having not grown up within black culture. I believe that having a black family structure present in my adolescent years would have better prepared me for the evils of the world and all of its racist ways. And I believe I would be more comfortable with my own racial identity today.
If (and when) I find my father, it will have the potential to change my life forever. There are many feelings that I have about this stranger. I feel apathetic, angry, hostile, scared, unsure, and curious to name a few. I will be forced to resolve some of these feelings that I have harbored for so many years. The Beautiful Struggle is capturing where I am now within this process. I believe that I will find some sort of closure for myself as the project evolves. I believe that I will find a way to heal and move forward with the struggles I have had because of not knowing my father.
This series of works, The Beautiful Struggle, is painted in black and white. This becomes a symbol for my racial mixture and creates a mood for the pieces. This series allows me to really check in with my emotions so I can document how they change throughout this process. These paintings are just the beginning. I will continue to paint as I look for my biological father; find him or not; and I will paint the aftermath finding him or not.
I have struggled with identity my whole life. It is fluid, dynamic, and there are multiple choices. In America I am black, but I could pass for white, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Caribbean, Creole, Middle Eastern, and most other mixed or colonized peoples. I believe most mixed race people know this space of otherness, marginalization, and emptiness. It is a shared experience. I want to capture this space, move through it, and reemerge as a whole person.