This was the beginning. In so many ways.
Two little girls sit on the front steps in their Sunday best. I’m on the left with the Buster Brown haircut. My sister has the curls. I remember wearing those dresses because of the scratchy crinoline where the petticoat attached at the waist. I remember the steps of our row house, my first home. I remember the sense of expectations. Little girls were expected to dress and act in certain ways. Family life was expected to include certain rituals and roles.
Looking back, I see those expectations being very small. My memory of the time combines with my understanding of life as it unfolded in the work shown, “Small Expectations.” A digital transfer of the photo from my family scrapbook, altered, is at the center. In the background I transferred text from a book on etiquette for young girls – prescriptions and externally applied expectations. The girls are surrounded by elements of childhood and innocence: blocks, an alphabet, variations of primary colors.
The little bird in the jar appears in the scene. A recurring symbol in my journey pieces, the bird appeals to me as a character. I like the inquisitive cock of her head. I like her character, a pudgy little body upheld by spindly legs. I can envision the hop and peck of this little bird, the constant quest for nourishment played out in a jerky little dance. She is all potential unrealized. She has the capacity to fly, but, for now, is still grounded. She does not belong in a jar.
I am volunteering in a first grade classroom this year. The capacity to fly is in each child. They are so beautiful that I look at them and blink back tears of amazement. I want their expectations to be unlimited. I want them to think that anything is possible. I want the adults in their lives to tell them that it's so, and to guide them to those possibilities. I want them to be creative and weird. I want them to take flight. I do not want them to live in a jar.