10 October 2007


The process of self-discovery is fluid, elusive and capricious. We find and lose ourselves, moment-to-moment, like the fleeting recognizable shapes seen in the clouds. The process of discovering our godhood is likewise fluid, elusive and capricious. We find and lose our divinity constantly. This is our mystery.

It seems to me that identity is a made thing, like art, like music, like a spinach soufflĂ©. It’s part performance, done for an audience, often involving improvisation – even plagiarism – and part self-discovery, a continual self-recreation.

I cannot speak to how everyone does it, but I pick and choose between all the possible choices I can imagine and sculpt an identity for myself. Actually I have several identities – the work identity, the home identity, the mom identity, the lover/partner identity, the artist identity. These days all my identities are more similar to each other than they have ever been in my life. I think I am achieving balance.


Postmodern society allows for each of us to keep a closet full of identities which we pull out and try on, wearing when and as we see fit. It seems to me that this is both a personal choice and a tendency based on cultural norms. Sociologist Victoria Alexander, in Sociology of the Arts, seems to agree, stating “…because people are more geographically mobile and can choose among a wide variety of consumer items, their identities have become fragmented and based on their consuming choices and lifestyles” (13). Did my grandmother have more than one identity? Perhaps she did, living with an unstable man, balancing a work life and home life, walking carefully on whatever eggshells the moment laid before her. Perhaps the need for multiple identities – or multifaceted identities – comes from having large numbers of people to interact with. Could it be that we need to be one person with that group, another person in this situation, and still another when we’re all alone?

In The Power of Feminist Art, editors Norma Broud and Mary Garrard, discussed identity with Judy Chicago. Chicago stated that, "Identity is multiple… when I started looking at Jewish experience people would say ‘Oh, you’ve stopped being a feminist?’ It’s because they had a very narrow concept of identity… one can be both a woman and a person of color, an American and of African descent, as well as a person of a particular class. One’s identity is larger than singular (72)."

My identity is indeed multiple. I self-identify as a member of a number of overlapping groups. In regards to ethnicity I see myself as predominantly western European (Irish, Scottish); class – this one is a bit fluid – I consider myself upper-middle class because I feel I am very fortunate in life, but I’m not sure if that’s how I’d be placed based on income. I place myself as an artist, a mother, a partnered individual, and a reluctant and somewhat anarchistic American. I have a work identity that oozes capability and responsibility, but I’d really like to chuck it all and be more bohemian, taking up an eclectic gypsy persona as my primary identity.

The clothes would be so much more fun.


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