Art From the Daughter of Artists

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Issue 13, Volume 113

By Joanne Hwang 

Cover Image

Art was the center of my life against my will. While the statement paints me as an ungrateful daughter angered by her childhood, it’s the truth. My parents are artists who find solace in viewing and creating art. They breathe in canvases, paintings, sketches, and collages as if art is rejuvenating. While society views art as emotionally and aesthetically pleasing, my parents’ obsession with art made it unappealing to me. Despite being a daughter of artists, making art was an expectation I couldn’t fulfill since I couldn’t draw or analyze art the way my parents were able to. I am the daughter of artists, but I had to accept that I wasn’t the artist that society expected me to be.

When I was younger, my parents dragged me to museums like the Whitney and galleries every other weekend. A summer vacation to France was centered around the Louvre and Renaissance paintings that bored my seven-year-old self. My mother got sentimental over paintings while I stood uncomfortably and invisibly beside her. I couldn’t see the sparkle my mother saw in Giacometti’s sculptures. I didn’t feel tranquility while sitting around art. I couldn’t draw as well as my mother could at the age of nine, and I developed a distaste for art museums and galleries because my childhood memories only consisted of walking alongside my parents in agonizing silence. As a daughter of artists, my inability to see the beauty in art felt like a deformity.

However, children are not carbon copies of their parents—we’re separate entities with different views of the world. As I gained freedom from my parents, I stopped chasing my naive dream of being them. I could decide what I wanted to do even if it differed from my parents’ desires. I avoided museums and gallery openings, and I quit art classes after school. Instead, I indulged in different interests with equal passion: I learned about science and wrote novellas. I evolved into someone different from the person my parents expected me to be.

Yet art couldn’t simply leave my life, either. Despite the pressure and shame that was associated with it, it was important to make peace with art. I explored art beyond what my parents taught me and discovered the true diversity of the subject. I began to view pieces through my own eyes instead of trying to imitate my mother’s emotions. Soon, I learned that the beauty of art is that it’s personal. No two people will have identical reactions to Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat or my mother’s Dream in Between. Interpretations, purposes, and meanings of artworks and creating art are incredibly broad. Therefore, I allowed my heart and my desires to guide me instead of my parents. I rediscovered the joy that is art through sketching in the margins of journals and painting for school assignments. Most importantly, I realized that my parents’ view of art didn’t have to be mine.

As I mature, I understand that my parents simply wanted to share their zeal for art with their child. They wanted me to find solace and ease in the one way they knew. They loved their child and loved art with every fiber in their bodies, so it was easier for them to explore familiar territory than risk attempting the unknown. However, maturing means pursuing interests and taking risks to discover the world and yourself. Schools give students the opportunity to join clubs and start activities in an environment without parental influence. When discovering new interests or reconnecting with past ones, one should do it for oneself.

I have walked past countless walls, floors, and buildings with magnificent paintings and sculptures in boredom, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s vital to freely explore one’s interests and learn to accept your identity and individuality. For me, art dictated that journey: a journey of rediscovering identity without expectations.