Memory & Intangibility


In a previous entry, For Carl, I described the nostalgic experience of being thrust into acute awareness of the timeless space that is my grandparent’s kitchen. I left feeling full, anchored, and whole. I have a habit of ruminating in thought and I have spent months in a cycle of thoughts about that day. Mostly, I am struggling how to pinpoint exactly what I felt. A concept that I keep returning to is the connection between our experiences, the spaces in which we have an experience, and memories that are created as a result of those experiences in those spaces.

This thought originated from an odd experience I had back in 2014. I had been released from work early at my job and thought to pop by my Nana & Poppie’s house for a few hours, unannounced. I should explain that arriving unannounced is a common practice among all of my family. It’s semi-open door policy. Sometimes we call but because of the norms we’ve created among ourselves, calling are not really necessary. As long as the person is home, and it’s a reasonable hour of the day, we’re pretty much always welcomed.

I cruised down the alley to their house and noticed that my Nana’s oil black Buick was not in the driveway. She was out, probably running errands, and there was no telling when she would return. I was a bit disappointed but I shrugged my shoulders and decided I would continue driving. Besides, I had other options, like crashing at my ‘Granny’s’ home a few miles away. Suddenly I stopped, realizing that I actually couldn’t ‘pop over”. Granny had passed away the previous year and the property was no longer an a space I was allowed access to. The doors and walls belonged to someone else and there was a slim chance that whoever lived there now would open them for me.

How do I effectively articulate what I experienced in that moment? How can I describe it in a way that can be considered conceptually and still resonate emotionally with others? Should I say, conflicted? Entitled? Rejected? I felt like my brain had glitched. Surely it is more complex than merely being locked out. I began to consider the reality that her home had shaped for me psychologically. Was the existence of this space so great that even after coming to terms with her of it’s owner, the home itself had continued to exist as an extension of me and my world. It had it’s own life in my memory. It’s own body. It’s own voice. All of its bits and pieces had operated as an extension of her, yet was autonomous that in my mind the reality of my losing her had no connection to my reality of losing it. Even more baffling is the fact that it is still present in the world. It is just intangible for me.

“To lose access to space is to actually lose a bit of who, and how, we have become.”

We are shaped, in large part, by our experiences; The encounters that trigger joy, love, and security in us form our beliefs about the world and determine ultimately how we exist in it. But I have come to believe that the spaces in which we experience these encounters are equally as important as what is experienced in them. Moreover, our having access to those spaces remaining at a constant has the power to settle or unsettle the foundations upon which we build our entire identities.

This is not to say that change is to be wrestled with. I believe it should be embraced and even welcomed. But I believe it can also be true that to lose access to space is to actually lose a bit of who, and how, we have become. Contrary to however large and vibrant Granny’s home remains in my memories, in reality my community and my world had become a bit smaller. Marginally, sure, when considered in relation to the world itself. But still significant enough to affect how freely I am able to move within the world.

I will add that my experience is not at all unique. Property loss can occur by natural disasters like earthquakes and floods. Countless families have been displaced by circumstances beyond their control.But what then are we to make of the economic circumstances that lead to these experiences? Like the 2008 housing market crash? Or even the loss of a family member who’s home was also your home, but in their absence has become intangible to you? Yes, rationally we can answer that this is the importance of setting a Will in place for your loved ones. I agree, it should be done. However, I’m not sure that distance between what should be done and what can be done is always easily travelled.

Truthfully, this experience is a micro-level result of macro-level issues that historically have and continue to contribute to deficiencies in economic wealth for African Americans. Forbes magazine published an article quoting a statistic average wealth value per African American household is 6% of the average for white families. William Darity, Professor of Public Policy, African and African-American Studies and Economics at Duke University explained that “the major sources of wealth for most of the super rich are inheritances and in life transfers. The big reason is racial differences in access to resources to transfer to the next generation”. Systems like redlining and profiling have historically determined how well African American communities would succeed economically, and consequently how secure future generations would be. To speak fully on these systems is to open a discussion that I cannot summarize in short. I will simply state that tangibility of wealth is an obstacle that many African American communities continue to face today. What I experienced is only fragment of what is felt when entire communities are displaced, erased, and replaced.

Is it not mind boggling to consider that a space can contribute so massively to our lives that we find difficulty separating our identities from them? They continue on in the world sharing little to no record of our relationship with them. And yet our memory of a space can continue to live vividly in us, even after it has ceased to exist. Research considers this notion to an extent; that our experiences and memories can tangibly alter our physical DNA if they are impactful enough. Further on it considers that consequently the DNA of our offspring is altered, carrying on the memories of previous generations, long after they have left the world. So, is memory intangible? Or is there an element of it that actually is tangible? And if so, how do I articulate this experience visually in my work?

– Kimberly R. Heard

For Carl

In our hyperactive society. A day doesn’t sound like much time. We open our eyes and go about our days without much thought to the events that are happening around us. But when the people you are spending time with are in their early-to-mid eighties, you realize that a day with them is truly a blessing. A few months back I spent nearly an entire day with my grandparents and what a blessing it was.

My grandmother had scheduled an at-home hair appointment, per her weekly routine, and I decided I would catch her hairstylist in the hope that she would fit me in for a quick ‘straw-set. By the time I’d arrived, my grandmother’s hair was finished and Poppie was making his way to the chair for a hair cut. I stood and chatted, watching the stylist close the buttons of the apron she had spread over him to catch the falling hair from her clippers. The moment struck me as important and I thought to catch it on my camera. What I captured was a quiet memory I’ll never forget.

From the telephone hung too close to the door frame, to the beveled brown edges of the counters, to the white gas stove and to the modern era fridge that has caught me countless times stealing juices and snacks when my grandparents weren’t looking. Everything positioned nearly the same way it had been for at least twenty years. Many of my memories from childhood are fragmented and difficult to recall. But it is refreshing to know (and witness) that throughout all of my life’s changes, the kitchen my grandparents home has remained the same. This moment grounded me in a way that I hadn’t experienced in a very long time. I felt whole, full, complete.

For all minority cultures and particularly African Americans, I believe it is critically important to investigate our histories; to know what has changed and what has remained the same. My work often deals with black culture and it’s the amalgamation of its historical origins. I typically collage images, of people, places, and materials from across the diaspora and draw them in an attempt to surface ideas, norms, beliefs, and connections that may not be visible unless juxtaposed. I am excited to incorporate these images into my work and I’m sure pieces of them will become recurring motifs. But As I watched Poppie having his hair trimmed, I realized that he and my grandmother are my only surviving elders and that my access to their experiences, their memories, their ideas, is fleeting. 

A day doesn’t sound like much time. But this day with them was truly a blessing.

– Kimberly

A Note on Censorship

Earlier this year I collaborated with a group of artists to create an installation on censorship within the history of Chinese legislature. We emphasized the culture’s orbit around calligraphy, where it is more than a learned skill, but quite often a tool of power, control, and social mobility.

As most things of value tend to be the process was slow. It relied heavily on the interdependence of artists’ concepts, words, and physical bodies. As collaborators we agreed that the antithesis of censorship could only be resistance; a will to push back.

“Resilience is birthed from the slow burn of one’s will.”

We constructed the sphere from scavenger like collection of press materials (i.e expired newspapers, rice papers, and newsprint) by applying layers of adhesive mixtures and water. Between layering, hardening and layering again, the construction alone took two weeks to form. We needed the sphere to be formidable enough to withhold the 24 oz of calligraphy ink we were planning to fill it with as well as contain the strength necessary to bear the weight of the aforementioned ink from a point of tension that it would hang from at nearly two feet. In other words, we needed it to be very resilient.

There was a stillness in the installation that I don’t believe I had anticipated. A quietness so gripping visually that I could only stand and watch as the wind swayed the sphere like a pendulum. The scale of it in comparison to the weightless sheets of rices papers below it amplified the immense sense of pressure that was felt from the sphere as it was seemingly held by mere threads.

A similar sentiment can be written of the experience of being censored and the experience of being silenced.

This concept of censorship is near to my personal interests in American history and brought to my remembrance the legislative tactics used to retain legal ownership of African bodies, voices, and freedoms. Having a voice is a particularly important issue in African American communities as historically, with their arrival as slaves in 1619, African Americans were not afforded the right to vote until the year 1870.

251 years being silenced.

This installation opened my mind to other forms that my concepts can take in the future. I work predominantly with drawing but, having studied multiple areas in Visual Arts, I have the ability to sculpt, to photograph, to film, and more.

I owe a great deal of thanks to my fellow artists for allowing me to collaborate with them in creating this quiet, thought provoking work:

Sihan Xong

Boxi Yang

Sarah Adams

Wen-ling Chen

Working with this group of women was such a beautiful experience. It is my hope that we cross paths again in our careers and collaborate on another inspiring work of art.

– Kimberly

OUT OF THE BLUE

I had the amazing opportunity to participate in a local group exhibition at the Bonita Museum and Cultural Center in Chula Vista, CA. The show was curated by local painter Christopher Padilla who considered it important to highlight some of San Diego’s upcoming artists. My work was featured along side some well established local artists and it was truly an honor to be a part of this show with them.

Curated by Christopher Padilla
Nov. 9 - Nov. 30, 2019
​Reception: Sat. Nov. 9th 5:00 - 8:00 PM

Amanda Kachadoorian
Chantal Wnuk
Amel Nelson
Vincent Schafer
A. Bachour
Desiree Lawrence
Akiko Surai
Nick Mcinvale
Kimberly R. Heard
Jeszica Jean
Daniel Hathaway
Janel de la Torre
Daylan Wilde
Alan Luna
Helen Hejl
Leah Sarrah Bassett
Elizabeth Stringer

Here are some images from the show!

Curator Christopher Padilla with Amanda Kachadoorian’s cultural ethnobotany “South Bay”, oil on canvas. 

“To Commune With Angels, Again”, 2019, 32 in x 40 in, Sharpie on Illustration board
“Yonder Gathering”, 2019, 20 in x 30 in, Sharpie and Graphite on Illustration board

Ghana 2018 pt. II

The Master View, Cape Coast Castle, Cape Coast, Ghana 2018

What would our lives be if we had never encountered the hand of colonization?

In part one, I compared the experiences of my travels to Bedford, UK in 2017 and Ghana in 2018 by their value in social capital. I realized I had been measuring the value of travel by asking which place could afford me a greater opportunity to align myself with my white counterparts. I know, this sounds ridiculous, right? Well, it’s actually more common than we would like to admit.

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+/- An Exhibition on Negative Space

Plus/Minus is an exhibition on the introspective expression of negative space with work created by emerging Southern California based artists. 

Negative space stands perspective on its head. Personal ideas take shape not only within the context of an art piece, but also in the absence of material in an art piece. Negative space, can be compared to the blank spots in each of our own experiences in relation to those around us. The morphing of perspective can be compared to the morphing of shapes and images in art. In this exhibition the artists will be discussing the ways that art can approach social delineation and personal perspective through the use of space. Every person has a different life experience, a different reality, and a different perspective. By looking between the lines, at the shapes our ideas take, and at the places they find blank, a person can find what they need to learn. 

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Reflect(s)

I was as honest with my passions then

as I am now.

My eyes linger over these forgotten photographs and I am brimming with varied emotions that range from intrigue, to sorrow to awe. Part of me is curious to recall my thoughts during this project. I photographed these images back in 2015, under the instruction of Suda House. Affectionately, I found her… cooky. She introduced me to the dark room, taught me the best F stops and Apertures, and gave me my first taste of applied art theory. I don’t remember what the prompt was exactly but I distinctly remember the work evolving into something of its own.

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Of Days, 2019

Of Days, 2019, 68″ x 217″ inches, Graphite on canvas

I struggle finding the words to talk about this piece. Not because I lack any, but rather that I have too many. To sum it as best I can, it is a compression of ancient and contemporary African experiences. More on this topic in a future post but I am noticing a trend that I unknowingly created for myself; capturing moments in time.

This drawing is an attempt to capture the past and the present in one panoramic frame. Through appropriation and collage, I have knitted what I hope conveys the moving stillness that is African and African American culture. Over decades (even centuries) traditions of dance and celebration are still valued and practiced in both cultures even today.

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UCSD Senior Art Crawl: Honors Thesis & Here/After 2019

In closing my undergraduate education at the University of California, San Diego my Studio Honors Cohort exhibited our Thesis projects in a group showing at the Adam D. Kamil Gallery. Our opening reception was June 4th, 2019.

Simultaneously, the opening reception for the 2019 Visual Arts Senior Class Exhibition was on June 4th, 2019.

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