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The Extraordinary in the Ordinary.

Crowley, Michelle (2017) The Extraordinary in the Ordinary. Masters thesis, University of Essex.


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I began my degree in Contemporary Art and Design in my early 40s with two young children, who were both still quite small and needed more ‘hands-on’ care than they do now that they are teenagers, which inevitably had an effect on my work. The ‘everyday’ is what I came home to at night; - the cooking, the laundry, homework, school trips, packed lunches and all the other countless things that provide security and certainty for those in my particular family unit. These ‘everyday’ things began to appear more and more regularly in my work, bringing a kind of comfort in the ‘normalness’, the ordinariness of their very existence. I began to realise that although these objects are almost invisible to us as they are such a familiar presence in our lives, they nevertheless have a value that we may not immediately recognise and perhaps they only have meaning for me. Chairs, cups and cutlery feature quite often in my work and it could be surmised that these are indeed everyday objects that make up family life.But, I began to realise that for me, these items also convey a much deeper importance. For me, they represent the importance of ‘people’ in my life, whether that be my core family or the much larger one of extended family and friends. This goes back to my childhood when my grandparents would expect all their children, their wives, husbands and grandchildren home on a Sunday afternoon for tea. No excuse for not being there was accepted. Both my Aunts carried this tradition on when they became mothers and grandmothers so I grew up with Sunday teas that were in turn full of mayhem, noise, laughter, drinks being spilt, children crying because they were overwhelmed and overtired. With hindsight, I am sure that some of the time, some of those present were filled with resentment, annoyance and frustration but I much prefer to recall those days with rose-tinted glasses. These ‘teas’ became an important part of my life as a wife and mother. My husband and I, with our children, moved away from our home town many years ago, opportunities have taken us to different parts of the country, so our ‘family’ has become that of our own making. Friday nights in our home became an ‘open house’ evening and anyone who was passing was welcome to join us for dinner and a glass of wine. Friends new and old and now our children are older, their friends have become part of the evening, as well as our family when they visit, gather at our house to connect or reconnect with each other. In this way my memory and the tradition of these ‘family’ gatherings has been carried on in my own life with a modern twist. These evenings are a way for different generations to socialise together, swapping stories and creating new memories, we discover untold histories and shared experiences that create bonds and strengthen ties amongst our man-made family. Over the course of my degree I realised that I place great importance on the objects around me, not because I am materialistic but because they remind me of my past, they are a method of remembering. I find it difficult to throw things away because I am throwing memories away in a very real way for me. Postcards, books, an absolutely hideous statue we received as a wedding present from a wonderful Aunt, that was so awful it became a much loved object and we were genuinely sad when it got broken in a house move. As Wittgenstein says: ‘The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. (One is unable to notice something because it is always before one’s eyes.) (Sachs, 2011:47). These items help define my life and what has happened in it, these constant reminders of what has gone before and what I would like to pass on to my children as a way for them to remember the family and home life they shared growing up. ‘Telling stories about the past, our past, is a key moment in the making of ourselves. To the extent that memory provides their raw material, such narratives of identity are shaped as much by what is left out of the account – whether forgotten or repressed – as by what is actually told’ (Kuhn, 2002: 2).

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Depositing User: Michelle Crowley
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2018 12:37
Last Modified: 25 Jun 2018 12:37

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