Reconstructing Cultural Identity in Artistic Practice : Embracing Mixed Heritage Through Framing Pride and Prejudice
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This paper is a Doctoral exegesis which discusses, analyses and contextualises the artistic quest of contemporary Australian-born artist, Michelle van Eps, to reconstruct her cultural identity in her artwork through investigating her paternal Dutch ancestry. Addressing Australian artists with mixed cultural heritage, the paper explores the phenomenon of a foreign ‘missing culture’ created by the dismissal of the validity of a past as well as a present, cultural ancestry. In this exegesis, the dilemma of the mixed heritage artist is related to Australian sociocultural dynamics and cultural mythologies, describing the possible impact of ‘missing culture’ upon artistic practice as one of ‘cultural vacuum’. Michelle van Eps retrospectively identifies three developmental stages in her practice from 2004 to 2009 which allowed her to reach a point of cultural hybridity and place her cultural identity into perspective whilst still continuing to practice in Australia. The ‘Prejudice’ phase, the ‘Pride’ phase and the ‘Hybridity’ phase are clearly demarcated in the artist’s work and form a narrative of an artistic shift in cultural perspective which includes a form of migration which is described as ‘virtual migration’. Her experience is compared to that of mixed heritage case studies, Lindy Lee, an Australian-Asian artist and Inga Hunter who was born in England with Afro-Carribean ancestry but has practiced art predominately in Australia. This dissertation frames notions of diaspora, cultural dichotomy, ancestry, selfesteem, belonging, prejudice, pride and hybridity within the context of an evolutionary artistic journey in which the artist seeks to come to terms with mixed heritage. Through self-reflection which exposed the interaction between private creation and public exhibition, Michelle appropriated 17th century Dutch painting compositions and techniques to developmentally reach a point of conceptual and cultural maturity in her work.
Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Doctor of Visual Arts (DVA)
Queensland College of Art
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Title page was scanned