Ashley Gardner

Identity Fragmentation: A Self Portrait; 2017
oil and mixed media on canvas; mirror installation on pedestal
canvas 70 x 42 in.; installation 8 x 42 x 28 in.

Using modern technology and science to pinpoint exact locations of my ancestry, I am delving into my past. By uncovering the unique code of my genes, I am able to trace my layered lineage of the African Diaspora. The content of my work comprises a series of portraits of my immediate family members, a metaphor for my identity, and self. The works are physical representations of kin who influence my presence and help to guide my future.

Concede, the first painting in this series, consists of a couple in a canoe on a quest for deeper understanding of themselves in a foreign but ancestral homeland of Benin. I am able to pinpoint the exact origins of my ancestors from taking a DNA test. Using the results, I created a mythological narrative depicting the exploration and contemplation of the self. Starting with the question of who I am, fostered my curiosity to seek more information about family origin not only in the United States but also in African and European countries.

To concede means, “To accept of or to not deny the truth or existence of something, to admit usually in an unwilling way.” Although painful, it is necessary to admit that we might be more than who we think we are outside of societal constructs. Creating this body of work is a submission to the truth of my deeper foundational self that had been hidden or deliberately lost. I want to grasp and depict a universal contemplative similarity for all viewers, in efforts that they discover their own truer identity through a deeper internal reflection. Through the audience’s gaze upon my portraits, my intention is for the audience to see and create parallels to themselves and their own families.

© Ashley Gardner