Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Mackenzie at 15, Decision Portrait Series


(Above: Mackenzie at 15, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: Self Directed Homeschooler. Xylene photo transfer. Hand embroidery and beading on tea-stained muslin. Unframed: 25" x 19"; Framed: 31" x 25". Click on image to enlarge.)

Writing about each portrait in this series is an important part of the creative process. It often summarizes how I came into contact with the "model", the decision being depicted, and the hope of eliciting a specific response when the work is finally exhibited. Mackenzie at 15 is the result of her mother's email message.

Mom, Christine Musgrave, wrote, "I have a 15 year old daughter, Mackenzie. She is the second of five girls....and also a homeschooler. She is in charge of her own homeschooling and is given an assessment each summer by a Masters level teacher. Mackenzie is a singer/songwriter, plays the guitar and cello, and has performed at local festivals, pubs, and clubs. Mackenzie also chooses forms of self-expression, such as a nose piercing in which she wears a hoop."

Christine responded to Dawn Goldsmith's fabulous blog post about my work and my need for Decision Portrait "models". We corresponded about the title and stitched words....and about our Ohio State/Columbus roots! (Christine lives only a few blocks from where I used to waitress tables back in the early 1980s!) I sent a model's release....for both Mackenzie and Christine to sign. (Mackenzie is obviously under 18!) This weekend I stitched the portrait and thought about it, about the response I hope it will generate because this decision to take command of ones education is truly profound.

I thought about my life at fifteen and throughout high school. I was a straight A student, played the piano, and was very responsible. Yet, there is no way I could have taken command of my education! I don't know many young people who could....a few, but not many. I could have, however, made other decisions at a very young age. I did make many because, like Mackenzie, my parents trusted my decision making abilities.

Mackenzie's decision was originally made by her family. They had to approve the plan. Now Mackenzie makes this decision every day....to learn, to study, to plan for her future. It is awesome.

(Above: Mackenzie at 15, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

The title was selected because it takes the form of Sally Mann's portrait of her daughter Jesse in Jesse at 5. Both are beautiful young girls. Both suggest an accelerated maturity level. Both girls are close to their mothers. Both art works are meant to elicit a response about young girls in today's society. There is a shock value. Okay....Mackenzie at 15 doesn't have the "punch in the stomach" shock value of Sally Mann's photos (which I personally love!)....but....there's an unexpected truth that is subtly as significant as the social commentary in Mann's powerful photography.

Mackenzie is basically a normal teenage girl. There are thousands of other teenagers who are equally mature, equally ready to take on more responsibility....even if it isn't taking command of their own education. They deserve respect. I hope that those viewing the finished piece, especially parents, question themselves about the maturity level and abilities in the young people they know. Teenagers can and do make very significant decisions. I'm proud to have stitched Mackenzie; I'm proud to be a new Facebook friend with her mother.

1 comment:

Plays with Needles said...

Way to go Mackenzie!! Loved reading the story behind this portrait. Susan, do you still need models? I plan to make a post on my blog next week but I'm curious to know if you have the capacity to accept new models?