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Culture International Voices

Painting My Way Home

Miguel Jimenez March 29, 2019

Spring break came and went, and with it the stories of people traveling home or spending a great time with their family and friends somewhere in the world. For me, this free week offer the much needed time to relax after a long period of stress and anxiety. However, I still wished to go home. Like every spring break since I came to Temple, I decided to stay on campus. It is not worth spending the money to buy a round trip to Mexico, but while my wallet does not have the means to take me home, I let my imagination guide me back. I chose to paint.

I figured that even though I couldn’t physically walk the historic streets of Puebla, Mexico and see its breathtaking views, my mind and soul could still take the trip back home. All I had to do was to let them tell my hands what to paint. So for seven days, I spent hours depicting landscapes back home. My inspirations were pictures of places that I have traveled to before. In the creating process, I soon found myself reflecting upon my thoughts of home.

I figured that even though I couldn’t physically walk the historic streets of Puebla, Mexico and see its breathtaking views, my mind and soul could still take the trip back home.

For a long time I had accumulated many emotions that I wished to express through the strokes of a brush, but there was a feeling that rose above the rest of them: nostalgia. I’ve been home the past Christmas and the summer before, and these visits to Mexico made me realize some contrasts between home and college. Essentially, each one of them has convinced me that my experiences at home are better than those in the United States. Yet I did not know why, and painting let me figure it out.  

In each stroke, I placed a thought and memory that made me understand my nostalgia. Through painting I became aware that I care a lot for Mexico and that I am generally apathetic towards the United States. While crafting the forms of my paintings’ hills and buildings, I often thought about their history. Since many of such landscapes have been around for centuries, I put myself in the shoes of the many people who have seen these views in the past, and tried to relate to their sacrifices and achievements. For instance, I reflected upon the struggles that my compatriots have faced to create Mexico, their fight against dictatorships and foreign interventions to form a sovereign nation.

Yet looking at an American landscape, I cannot be a witness to its past. I know the country’s history and turbulent past, but walking through it, I have no memory of them. Old buildings with historic events are often replaced by modern office buildings or apartment complexes, which makes it difficult for me to reflect upon their past. This connection to history is a feeling that I miss while studying at Temple because I am not able to relate to its surroundings.

In addition to the collective memory of a place, I also had a personal recollection of each of the landscapes I painted. As I gently brushed color on a street corner of my hometown, I instantly remembered a funny anecdote that had taken place between me and my relatives in the past. Painting the landscapes became more than a technique of imitating colors and textures; it is a process to remember my past experiences with them.The fact that I recalled these incidents eventually made me realize that at home I was surrounded by people whom I love, while in the U.S. I am mostly stuck by myself, which makes me miss Mexico. I have had good experiences at Temple, but many of them seem to be more superficial and temporary than those at home. If you ask me to retell something that happened here, I would stumble out a simple account, but when it comes to recounting an event that took place in Mexico, I am able to recall a detailed story.

Looking at the finished artwork, I acknowledge that the pieces may not be realistic or beautiful, but I know I crafted them with emotions that I feel for home. To me that is art, the process in which we place our feelings, thoughts, and ideas on an expressive medium. The end product does not necessarily need to imitate reality, whether that is a building or feeling, since it is impossible to duplicate it. Instead, art should focus on the process of creating, and as long as the resulting piece bears a connection to the creator’s mind and soul, the artwork is successful.

To me that is art, the process in which we place our feelings, thoughts, and ideas on an expressive medium.

I would encourage others to express what they feel through art. It makes us release what lies buried deep in our subconsciousness.This practice is important, as it may help us understand who we are and why we feel or think the way we do. Perhaps art is the solution for our inner conflicts, as it may save us from ourselves.