The World Family: An Artist Examines Personal Identity Development within the Context of “Family”

By Scott Gordley.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper examines personal identity development in the context of relational dynamics within the family. For the artist, “family” is a rich source of personal inquiry. This examination begins with my own Midwestern American family. References include an archive of over 5 decades of personal family photographs, slides and journal entries in an attempt to illustrate, in a series of paintings, common gender constructives and social codes inherent in many post-war American families. Supplementing these paintings are personal observations (written in journal form) on the psycho biographical process of recontextualizing family history, the role of memory, and the subsequent manipulation of “history” that results. Interviews with intimate family members (mine), research studies on family dynamics and popular culture influences will be included. Examining familial influences is one area that cultivates a perspective of self, supporting intelligent inquiry. Documenting personal dynamics has served as a template for course content I’ve subsequently developed entitled; The Illustrated Family: A Visual Essay. Throughout the project students are asked to explore their personal views of family through visual and written interpretation. Family is open to multiple translations as it could denote peer group or ethnic origin. Art reflects existence within the historical context of a particular time. Narrative painting has historically been an important medium in this documentation of society. My goal for students is to decipher how the current epoch of which they are a part is related to his or her personal development as artist/documentarian. I know of no better teaching method than to engage students in the conceptual process of art making that is deeply felt, earnestly expressed, and tells the important story. In attaching the concept of family to this project students enter a dialogue that serves as a catalyst for important self-discovery. A valuable component to the this critical examination is the opportunity for creative discourse addressing mechanisms within the family structure to combat cultural misunderstandings that lead to real conflict-ever more pressing in present-day contexts of globalization, and its social, economic and political artifacts of cultural homogenization, commodification, and militarization.

Keywords: Family, Personal Identity Development, Recontextualizing Family History, Artist Examination

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 9, pp.187-200. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 4.288MB).

Prof. Scott Gordley

Professor, Department of Art & Design, College of the Arts, Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, New Jersey, USA

Scott Gordley graduated with an MFA from Tufts University. He is currently a Professor of Fine Arts at Montclair State University. His work appears in many public and private collections and has been exhibited in solo and group shows throughout the United States and Austria. In 1999 a 20-year retrospective of his work was held in Vienna, Austria. In 1998 Gordley was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant in conjunction with the Connecticut Commission on the Arts to produce a documentary on the civil rights movement entitled Voices of Change with participation from Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP and the Reverend Jessie Jackson. He is in the permanent collection of The American Soviet Theater Initiative in Moscow, the Swedish Royal Theater, HUD headquarters in Washington DC, Ringling School of Art, Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, and the J.B. Speed Museum among many others. In addition to painting Mr.Gordley is a talented saxophonist appearing on numerous recordings with jazz & blues artists such as Little Anthony, Johnny MacLeod, and the Gamma Rays. He currently plays with Rattle Head recording artists Erik Narwhal & the Manatees when not touring with his own jazz trio: the Scott Gordley Trio.

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