Archive for March 20th, 2023

Blood Memory

GC Myers- Blood Memory, 2023

Blood Memory, 2023

To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man’s lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?

–Cicero, 46 BCE

I call this new smaller painting Blood Memory. It started as an experiment with the crimson color that makes up the foreground of this piece. I wasn’t sure where it would go or what it might bring to mind. I just wanted to see how dense I could make the color at first.

But once it was in place it took on its own narrative, ending us as the base for what appears to be a simple composition.

Simply composed but not with a simple meaning or simply explained.

That red spoke to me of memory. No, not the easily recalled memories of our childhood or youth. Something deeper than that. The memory written in our blood. Those memories that that have been passed down through time to us in forms we might not even recognize.

I used the term Blood Memory for this piece but knew nothing of the meaning or usage of this term. I decided I had better research it so that I wasn’t unknowingly linking this piece to some repugnant ideology.

Turns out that the term came into use after it appeared in the Pulitzer Prize winning 1968 novel, House Made of Dawn, from N. Scott Momaday. Considered a breakthrough in Native American literature, the book describes in fictional form events from Momaday’s time growing up on the Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico. There is a part in it where the Priest of the Sun delivers a sermon speaking of his Kiowa grandmother, who is said to have “lived out her long life in the shadow of Rainy Mountain, the immense landscape of the continental interior,” and “all of its seasons and its sounds—lay like memory in her blood. She could tell of the Crows, whom she had never seen, and of the Black Hills, where she had never been.”

It is memory written in our DNA, handed down generationally, rather those memories we experience firsthand.

There’s a lot more to say about the concept of blood memory especially as it pertains to the Native American people. It has become a symbol for their struggle to maintain their cultural identity in the face of a historic systemic effort to erase it.  I can’t speak with any real knowledge as it is still a fresh concept to me but I urge you to do your own research.

After my short bit of research, I felt that the term still worked well for this painting, still evoked that sense of a deep memory that we somehow recognize even though we know we haven’t experienced it for ourselves. The feeling of memory that connects us to our distant past, one that shows that we are woven into the fabric of our family history–our personal family and our extended human family.

Okay, here’s a favorite song from Nirvana, Come As You Are. I am not sure why but, for me, it seems to fit for this morning’s post.

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