Bury Your Grievances
2019, an experimental solo show featuring a live performance by Jessica Emmanuel in Downtown, Los Angeles.
In this new body of work, I am exploring both my personal relationship to grief and the overarching concept of loss through our connection to the natural world. Our environment grows, thrives, disintegrates and repeats in a complex harmony. Witnessing this cycle has provided me with an appreciation for change and loss; a concept that we do not give a lot of space and time to unless faced with unforeseen tragedy. There are many levels of loss and we tend to focus more on how to move forward instead of really processing that departure.
Set inside of an elevator, a scene voided out with black curtains, dancer Jessica Emmanuel continuously moves through the five stages of grief; Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. The performance repeats multiple times throughout the evening relating to ritual. Building and detracting on each round, much like ones ongoing relationship with the grieving process.
In the next elevator rests a table and chair set for one. Guests were encouraged to sit and write a goodbye letter to a person, idea or expectation that does not serve them. After tucking that note into handmade clay urns which took the shape of dried leaves, the guests used a small trowel to bury the urns in the earth. I was present to facilitate this burial and light a votive to mark the memory of the departed concept.
The visual work considers the transference of energy and the natural life cycles by pairing kinetic sculptures to photography. Playing with thoughts of memory, some lost and faded, capturing an image that speaks to a feeling or a flash. Can we capture the energy around us? The energy that moves through us? If we slow down enough, can we feel it’s presence?
Both Jessica Emmanuel and I have been personally touched by grief. Having lost my brother to mental illness five years ago, I understand the importance of saying goodbye. To me, grief felt like being dropping into the thick, heavy cob web. It envelopes you to the point where you can’t see or think anymore. Even when you think you’ve found a way out, you turn to notice little tendrils latched on to your wrists and ankles. Residue finds it way in the most unexpected places. Having moved a great distance from that dark web, I have finally been able to consider the grieving process with more clarity. This body of work mediates on that.
2018, video and multimedia installation for The Voyeur Hotel exhibition at Astroetic Studios
The way we move through the world can largely be informed by the people who we think are watching us. We build up structures to protect our vulnerabilities and disguise the parts of ourselves that don’t feel acceptable. These masks reflect the world around us, some are sharp like armor, some are beautiful with ornate distractions and some form an all too perfect symmetry. Persona is an experimental art film created around these concepts of masking identity, fear of vulnerability and self-realization.
I am interested identifying the social pressures from our community, our families and our larger social context that seep into our inner lens which then shapes the way we present ourselves and interact with the world around us. I also hope to explore the point in which these expectations harm personal growth. Adapting to fit in is an important part of our social evolution, but some of us have created molds that don’t actually reflect our inner true selves.
The psychologist Carl G. Jung believed that the persona, our social mask, is not the totality of our being, but rather only a small component of a much larger personality. Jung felt that the path to becoming a wholly integrated and self-realized person begins with exploring our shadows. Our shadows are the parts of ourselves that we see as negative or that don’t fit in with the larger social dynamic. He states, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
Persona follows the stories of four different people who have deeply felt the weight of these pressures to align with a certain identity. They built up their masks and tried to blend in, but their masks became too heavy and bore down on their skin. So they found the edge that separate's their true form from these structures, and pulled them away. These are their stories.
M O R G A N described how it felt to grow up in the wrong body. She felt so different from her friends that she was worried she may of been an alien.. Even as a little boy, she didn’t feel comfortable in her own skin. She hoped that going through puberty would fix the strangeness that kept persisting, and remembers the feeling of devastation when it didn’t. When Morgan realized she was a born into the wrong gender, so many things were illuminated for her. Morgan transitioned to become a woman two years ago after living thirty years as a man. I saw tears in her eyes when she told me how happy she is now to finally unveil this concept of her identity and live openly with it.
Morgan grew up in the South. Gender was not something she knew she could safely explore there, but after moving to Los Angeles, she finally found the space to find herself. She fought hard for her happiness. Sharing this with her parents was incredibly challenging, they love and accept her, but are still struggling to understand how to treat her as she changes. Despite some painful moments, she finally feels seen.
O L I V E R moved to Los Angeles from Taiwan two years ago and still fights the feeling that people are staring at him as he walks down the street. How do you present yourself as a gay man in a completely different culture that, is in many respects still so foreign? He shared with me his inner conflicts about feeling confident in his skin. He feels unapproachable because he doesn’t fit the desired stereotype. He spoke to me about how white, masculine men are all that is represented here in the Los Angeles gay community. He is not white, and he is not masculine. He’s worked all his life to balance his feminine side by forcing himself to play sports and trying to be more assertive. Now, Oliver is working to feel more comfortable with who he is in the world and he hopes that society will also start to change to include his form of beauty.
K E L V I N showed me the scars on his hands from the fights he used to get in growing up in Puerto Rico. After a gun was held to his head, his family broke down and sent him to live in upstate New York. After a few missteps he eventually rose through the ranks of semi-professional to pro and made it into an Arena Football league. This was a huge success for him and his family, but to be a football player, they only wanted part of Kelvin Amparo.
He wrote hip hop music and had just released a new music video, it featured a party scene, so his coach decided that wasn’t the image they wanted to support on the league. He made him take down the video. Music was always there for Kelvin as he moved from state to state, country to country. He couldn’t lose that part of him, so he walked away from football. He moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of making music, even if that meant he’d be sleeping on couches for months. He looked at the life he built for himself, and the expectations from everyone around him and decided that wasn’t what he wanted to see in the mirror any more. So he broke the mirror.
J A N T Z E N grew up in a very small town in the Midwest. Home to about 1,100 people. She naturally fell into a performative role and decided to pursue a career as a weather reporter that eventually took her to the big city, Los Angeles. She became a public figure, but this conservative look wasn’t what drove her. All the while she lived a double life, playing in a band and partying until sunrise, just looking to see and be seen. The moment when someone recognized her on the street at 7 am a bender and days of missed work, she knew she needed to make a change.
Her boss really loved what she brought to the network and tried everything to keep her. So she took some time off to decide what she really wanted. She shaved her head and locked herself away to rediscover the things she truly enjoyed. She decided to quit her job and live a more visible, less composed life. She became a nude model, posing under the name of Naked Sister for artists and photographers. This was challenging to explain to her family back home, but Jantzen is truly happy. A beautiful quote by Carl Jung speaks to this the best, ”One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious.”
2017, Multimedia interactive installation at Nous Tous Gallery, Chinatown, Los Angeles. Sponsored by Jagermeister
With a perpetual summer, artificial lighting that can pass night for day, and a work load that only seems to pile higher, when do we allow for rest? Our seasons provide markers in time that set a stage for varying levels of activity. Winter stalls the growth which provides time to reflect and process all the maturation and death you’ve experienced over the year. However, if you live in a city that never slows, it can be easy to constantly be pushing forward.
To combat this endless forward trajectory, we attempted to slow down time by creating our own weather cycle inside a small gallery in the heart of Los Angeles. In collaboration with Keisha Raines and Kim Newmoney, we constructed a cabin intended for solitude and contemplation amid the chaos of downtown. Made of wood, glass and sticks, the cabin emit a cool glow as you entered the gallery. One guest entered at a time to sit with the winter oracle.
Tarot card reader Danielle Dorsey greeted you from a snow-covered throne. She pulled three cards: one for your past, one for your present, and one for your future. Taking note to the ideas that need to remain underground for longer before they are ready to sprout. Nourishing the idea to looking inward for answers.
2017, Multimedia interactive installation. Future Tongue Gallery in Little Tokyo Art Complex, Los Angeles
As the political dust settles in the wake of the 2016 election, we found ourselves in a deeply divided country. Sanctuary was created not to reinforce those divisions, but to investigate them. What does a sanctuary look like? Who should be let into these spaces? Can we find sanctuary in our ever-changing culture or should we flock to the temples of our past?
To approach these concepts Future Tongue took over an old industrial building on that sits on the edge of Little Tokyo and Skid Row. Inspired by the concept of creating a living representation of one's own personal or cultural sanctuary, the open gallery space was subdivided to create five partial enclosures. Then handed over the keys to the artists. Resulting in multiple immersive installations that became the stage for performance, dance, spoken word and live music.
In collaboration with artist Justine Jaime, our installation was inspired by imagery of nature. Having spent my childhood exploring the untamed woods and rivers banks of North Carolina, I look to the natural landscape for my personal sanctuary. Jaime’s work is inspired by her Mexican American roots and address the landscape change between the northern region of Mexico and the deserts lands of Arizona where her family is from. Having both relocated to Los Angeles, we were considering how California’s natural ecology has been engineered to include species of palm trees and other plants that are not natural to the region. Making a connection to how much of our population here is transplanted from other states and countries.
Constructing a treehouse in the middle of the gallery, we invited guests to climb inside in small groups to view a video projected on the cloth ceiling of the geometric structure. Encouraging hushed conversations about home and safety, we aimed to break down personal barriers to expand the concept of community.