Work > Father Figure

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2018, as part of Tributaries Cuesta art show at Harold J. Miossi Art Gallery in San Luis Obispo

Father Figure is an exploration and contemplation in healing familial wounds. My recreating these photographs taken of my father when he was young, I'm attempting to embody the parts of my father that I miss, and provide them for myself.

Photos of my father were taken in 1970

Photos of me taken by Aubrey Trinnaman in 2018

Accompanying text:

Father Figure

These photos of my father were taken circa 1970 when he was about 18 years old. This was back when he played in a folk-rock band, was majoring in classical guitar at music school, smoked pot, read astrology and communist theory, and was generally open and experimental in life. My father is now a right-wing Republican born-again Christian. Our relationship is terse and strained in some regards, though there is still a lot of love there.

When I was young, I connected with this younger spirit of my father. He played the guitar and sang me to bed, and later taught me songs on the guitar and we sang together. We poured over his amazing record collection, spend lots of time in bookstores and libraries digging through sci-fi, went on long hikes and camping trips, appreciated art together, and talked about the world as a weird, beautiful place full of possibilities.

About 20 years ago, when I was an adolescent, my mother’s mental health and alcoholism reached a chaotic and destructive place where she was routinely cycling in and out of jails, mental institutions, and rehabs. My brother and I were both getting into trouble too. With the stress of our chaotic reality, we were both self-medicating with drugs and alcohol and were truants from school, failing our classes and having run-ins with law enforcement. With his whole family falling apart, my father went through an existential crisis and rushed headlong into the embrace of Christianity. The church was there for him when he desperately needed support, and for that, I am very grateful. But while returning the embrace of the church, he embraced some very conservative views and beliefs that are, in my view, highly problematic and have harmful consequences. We started fighting all the time and I missed the father I used to connect with as we drifted apart.

About 10 years ago, I went through a period of a year and a half where I took space from him because we couldn’t talk about anything without it ending in tears and anger.

These days, we talk and see each other occasionally, but our connection barely scratches the surface. We’ve limited our conversational topics to only the safe and bland. It works, but I miss the father I used to connect with. The father that I could open up to without it being filtered through the lens of fear-based, repressive beliefs.

In the absence of a father I can connect with and get support and encouragement from, I’m working to get this connection and support from myself, and from people in my community. By re-creating these photographs, I’m reaching out to that spirit of my father by which I used to feel nourished. I pulled in a number of close friends to re-create or replace the objects and artwork in the original photos with connections that are meaningful to me. I’m establishing a place within myself and my community from which I can get that nourishment, connection, support, and encouragement when I need it.

UPDATE:
Since sharing this project with my father, it has opened up dialogue on these topics and we're working on our relationship, and on understanding and accepting each other. It's a work in progress, but I'm grateful we're getting somewhere new.