Several months ago my husband and I were having dinner with friends. When the conversation hit a lull, our gregarious host asked a question of all of us, “What is the very first memory that you can remember?” As we all went around the table and shared, a couple of things came out of that time for me. One, our memories and stories become a part of us and shape us. Two, I was taken with the emotions and expressions that came to my friends’ faces as they shared…not so much that they were fully in the moment they remembered, but more so the reflective nature of their facial expressions.
As the months went by, that dinner and my friends’ stories, or rather their facial expressions as they shared, periodically came to mind. It got me thinking more about the power of story and how we are shaped by them. It’s a popular topic these days and we often hear about the importance of telling our own story and hearing others’ stories as well. It’s a theme I enjoy exploring in my work, particularly the idea that we all need acceptance and want to be known.
Since it was something that seemed to be sticking around in my mind, I decided to try and make a series of paintings based around that question my friend asked, “What’s your first memory?” Simply asking the question assumes a level of trust, a willingness to be vulnerable, and a willingness to listen and understand. I love that the project elevates transparency, reflection and a form of service in the listener’s willingness to hear and understand another person share a piece of who they are. The result for this project is a portrait of the storyteller that aims to capture, in a moment, who they are.
I asked my brother to share his first memory with me and recorded him while he did. I decided, after watching the video and hearing my brother, to take a still of a moment that most captured his mood while he told the story. This will be the process for each painting created for this series.