THE IDENTITY PROJECT (On-going)

This is the beginning of work I am exploring about identity as seen through the lens of family. After my mom, Betty, passed away at age 90 on Christmas Eve 2015, I eventually began going through things at the house, which we had shared for the last 15 years. After I found many reels of 8mm film and someone to repair her old Bell & Howell projector, I began watching the story of my family.

In working on a photography project for a class at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York, the timing of which coincided with the first anniversary of B's passing, I wanted to look at the idea of identity and grief. That's how this project got its beginnings. Eventually, I would begin my days before dawn, watching and capturing images as they flashed across the kitchen wall, using a borrowed camera from ICP. As I worked on my project, an image of my mother, somewhere around 30 years old and glamorous in her polka dot dress and captivatingly shy and beautiful face, moved across the kitchen wall -- a rare image because most of the reels had been filmed by B. I remembered that I had my mother's polka dot scarf and a tube of her classic red lipstick. And so with the image I shot of myself, I tried to find myself, inside her polka dots, red lips and look. 

This project is young and I have much more to explore. For now, as my sense of who I am without both parents unfolds, so, too, does my understanding of loss, grief and the marks we leave on each other. 

 
 
MOM, BEFORE ME

MOM, BEFORE ME

I AM FROM

I am from the Mediterranean Sea,

from Beatrice and Sebastiano,

from B and Iano.

I am from respect for numbers and cooking,

from Sunday dinners with crusty bread dunked into the pot with floating meatballs,

from singing opera and dancing to the “The King and I.”

I am from the clothesline on 17th Street

and the garden growing cucuzza,

from homemade sausage

and working fiercely.

 

I am from grief and infidelity,

from forgiveness and walls,

from metal boxes with secrets

and dreams of gold.

I am from beautiful and handsome,

from Imitation of Life

and life imitating art.

I am from holes and bridges,

from Christmas Eve and Iano crying when B had a nose bleed,

from B’s expansive heart.

DAD, BEFORE ME WITH MY BROTHER

DAD, BEFORE ME WITH MY BROTHER


ME, AFTER B & IANO

ME, AFTER B & IANO

 

I am from your father had a massive heart attack,

from your mother has Horner’s Syndrome.

I am from a surprise attack and “He never knew what hit him,”

from a deliberate decision to stop eating and “Failure to Thrive.”

I am from a casket in the ground

and ashes sitting on the bookshelf.

 

I am from wishing I could hear their voices.