Tearing At The Seams
Written by Stephanie Bravo
Edited by Liam Zhang
The concept of “home” is one that is found in many cultures and is deeply embedded in the human consciousness.
It is a word that despite its simplicity and frequent usage can take on many different and complex meanings: as a physical space or dwelling, the notions of privacy, protection and stability, or even one’s identity and sense of self. I created this series because I am interested in exploring the various meanings of “home” specifically as a feminine and cultural space and how they inform my own identity.
My initial reflection of home was its connection to domesticity. A woman’s role in this world is still a debated subject and, to this day, it remains tethered to the domestic realm. In my work, I reflect on the dichotomy of home being considered a private and feminine space whereas the public space is considered a masculine one. Using a self-portraiture approach, I created images from a singular viewpoint set from behind to highlight the contrast between what is visible (public and masculine) and what is hidden (private and feminine) from the viewer.
The concept of home can refer to both the tangible, physical space occupied by the body, or the intangible perception and experience resulting from occupying that space, or even the body itself. The female body has a history of being colonized by subjugating forces and the values of a system that oppresses women and their bodies can reside both intangibly in their minds, and tangibly in the space they occupy. Using the human body as a medium, I incorporated images of fragmented body parts and silhouettes of the female form in order to work all three different interpretations of “home” as a physical space, a mental space, and the body itself into one coherent depiction.
While reading multiple texts written about, or by, Latin-American women, I came across the term, “nepantla,” a word that originates from the Aztec language, Nahuatl, which means “middle.” The term is theorized to represent the concept of “in-between-ness” that is experienced by people exposed to two worlds, or cultures. Living in between cultures results in “seeing double” and the establishment of a new consciousness. In ‘Borderlands/La Frontera’ Gloria E. Anzaldúa wrote about the “mestiza consciousness” which is defined as the “racial, ideological, cultural, and biological cross-pollination” of an identity that shifts between two cultures. As an individual exposed to both Anglo and Hispanic cultures, the concept of “home” as it relates to one’s sense of cultural belonging and where one resides in this liminal space is also relevant to me. I’ve learned to tolerate the fact that my identity is unclear and to embraces the ambiguity of where “home” lies.
Working with print-based collages and writing, I explore the many meanings of “home” as an identity, a physical place, a rentable, brought to life by my own struggle to understand where my place is as a female and as a mestiza. Through the process of cutting, layering, mirroring, and repeating elements in my work, I was able to create a distinct framework for interpreting my sense of ‘self’ and ‘home’. Writing in English and Spanish became part of my process of narrating the conflict between two cultures. These components are parts of a whole that work in tandem with each other, while informing and causing one another to overlap and intersect.