I Am My Ancestors; Coming to America
As a counterpart to my self-portrait series recently done in Romania, I am exploring life
as it might have been for my grandmother, had she immigrated to the United States now.
This work is real and not real. They are photographs of me, but not me. The images represent truth and speculation, from stories about my grandmother and through my perspectives as a 21st century woman living in the Southwestern United States.
I never knew my grandmother. But I know several stories about her. She immigrated to the U.S.
from Romania in the early 20th century, with her 8-year-old daughter in tow. She gave birth to my father within a year of their arrival, the only one of his siblings to be born an American citizen. But my grandfather died within 3 years, leaving my grandmother alone with 2 children in a foreign country. She did not speak English well, never rode in a car, worked cleaning railroad cars and in a textile factory. My father sold apples door to door and hunted for scrap metal near the tracks to help sustain
the family’s small income. Despite the hardships, I hear that my grandmother was a kind and generous
In this work, I represent what I know of my grandmother, and imagine how she might have responded
to life here and now, as I am living it. By dressing as she might have, re-enacting some stories about her, and contemplating her confusion or delight at modern situations or simply the differences of
the American Southwest, I hope to comment on history, immigration, culture, gender and identity. Through many ‘what if” scenarios, I am playacting at being a Romanian peasant, yet I am still me.