Where there is conditional love in a home, children grow up to become insecure and distrustful adults. Abuse and neglect in childhood results in developmental trauma, causing long-lasting psychological and physical effects on the individual throughout their life.
I see a correlation between my fascination with old domestic items and generational trauma. The items I’m drawn to are worn, dingy, unwanted, and they hold so much history. These items seem familiar to me, so I collect them. And this is where my work begins.
Old light fixtures have become a particular interest of mine. In healthy circumstances, light means safety, in a similar way that the home should mean safety. I use the phrase “healthy circumstances” and not “normal circumstances,” because the more I learn, the more it is clear that a healthy upbringing is not the norm.
By assembling or building installations with domestic items, I create spaces for the viewer to explore and experience. My work comes from a personal investigation of developmental trauma, rural poverty, and delicate family ties. However, that doesn’t mean the resulting work must have a negative or triggering impact on the viewer experiencing the work. The domestic items that remind me of a traumatic past could create a warm, welcoming space for someone else. The soft glow of a lamp behind curtains could look inviting to one person and like a trap to the next. And in my case, even a troubled childhood is interwoven with fond memories and delicate family ties.
“In order to overcome trauma, people need to feel safe enough to open up their hearts and minds to others and become engaged with new possibilities. This can only be done if trauma survivors, and their communities, are helped to confront and confess the reality of what has happened and are helped to feel safe again.”
-Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. (author of The Body Keeps the Score)