Learning To Love You More




Assignment #14
Write your life story in less than a day.

Jacinda R.
Portland, Oregon USA



My parents grew up in Southern California and moved to Boise, Idaho for a job teaching painting at Boise State College (later Boise State University). I was born three years later on a hot August day in 1972. My parents had a California manner of thinking that was instilled all my childhood - I never felt like I was from Boise and rebelled against the hick mentality from the beginning. I don't remember much before my brother was born 3 1/2 years later. I often think that my first memory is of him coming home from the hospital. Another early memory of a time not long after that is of my mother crying on the sofa breast-feeding my brother. In later years, I learned that my father had not come home for a few days and was having an affair with a woman named Patricia. When my dad finally returned, I marched back and forth from the living room to the bathroom putting lotion on my hands each time I reached the sink. Patricia was pregnant with twins - she put them up for adoption and my father never had anything to do with them. I used to wonder what would happen if they suddenly appeared - would I treat them well or with great hesitancy? I haven't thought of them in years.
My parents tried to patch things up by building a house together - a barn red castle on the "bench." It was the largest house in the neighborhood and gigantic as a kid - 5500 square feet. My father used the upstairs as a painting studio, we lived on the main floor, and years later the basement was remodeled as living quarters after my grandmother moved in. Needless to say, a house couldn't hold two people together who lived on opposite poles and my parents divorced a month before I turned seven. Mom remarried immediately afterwards to a man named Bill, who owned his own construction business. I have good and bad memories of this relationship that lasted for ten years. I try hard to think of all the vacations we took in the pop top VW van to remote areas in the Northwest rather than the ugly parts.
I was a shy kid - petrified of speaking in front of people or even too afraid to ask a teacher to use the bathroom. In the fourth grade, I grew long hair and wore my hair in two braids for several years. Junior high cured this and I surprised my mom with a short hair cut and pierced ears when she returned from vacation one summer (in her eyes, gypsies wore earrings not good little girls). It took me a long time to like my mom and the teenage years were full of hate and distrust. My brother (who I was always very close to up until he turned 16) and I moved in with my dad when I was a junior in high school. It was the weekend after my grandmother died which has been the hardest death yet to accept.
High school was hell and I dreamed of dropping out, getting a GED, and going to college a year or two early. I didn't though. Instead, I stuck it out and attended Boise State University after graduation. I grew up in that art department and it seemed fitting that I would go to school there. I started out as an English major and during the last semester of my freshman year, I enrolled in a photography course to get enough credits to reach sophomore status. Soon I had more photo credits than English and after taking a year off to figure things out, I returned to school to get an art degree. My father was most helpful at this part of my life. My final semester we had a collaborative exhibition in the school gallery, a fond memory of that time period. The name of our show was "Sayonara: Born to Do More" - something I hoped to strive for in my relationship with Boise, Idaho.
After another year off - painting the castle Incredible Hulk green while my father recovered from major surgery - I applied for graduate school and was accepted into two programs: University of Arizona and University of Miami. I applied for the latter because I had a purpose - a cousin I only knew from watching him dive on television lived there and he had no idea my side of the family existed. I concluded that if I got into school there, I would go to meet him and although I wasn't hoping for it at the time, reunite that side of the family. Needless to say, it all worked out and I made my first book about this portion of my life while attending grad school at the University of Arizona. I worked hard there and felt like it was one of the biggest gifts I have had in my early career as an artist. Some of the best memories I have come my life in the desert.
At the same time I attended UA I also maintained residency in New Zealand. I fell in love with it while visiting during my year hiatus in undergraduate school. If I didn't get into graduate school, I would at least have a back-up plan. Well, I got both and spent the summers (NZ winters) on Stewart Island. This place has affected me like no other - it holds on tightly to my unconscious and not a day goes by when I don't think of it.
The last semester, I attended the Society for Photography Education national conference in Tucson and met a man named Chas Bowie. Chas worked for FotoFest in Houston and we became instant friends. I visited him a couple days after my orals were completed and when he asked me to move to Houston, I didn't have a reason to say no. I left Tucson for Astoria where my father recently moved into the old YMCA to think things through. Six weeks later I drove to Texas and remained there for three years - soaking up the art scene, living a good life with Chas and his Cajun kitty, Minnew. I had the worst job of my life working as Operations Manager at the Houston Center for Photography then I quit and began teaching part time at the University of Houston and Lee College in Baytown. I worked at Texas Gallery on the side, which still provides endless amusing stories and fond memories. Cataloging a book collection that never stopped growing was an impetus to create my own or at least control it before it got too far.
Three years later, Chas and I were married at the Aurora Picture Show in Houston. We moved to Portland shortly after and that is where we remain today. We wanted a change of lifestyle and that is what we found. I foresee staying there for awhile - it is a place that reminds me most of New Zealand (something I sadly gave up when choosing Texas). Today, I spend early 2003 in Snowmass, Colorado at a residency. I decided to complete this assignment to give me a little perspective on the weeks to come. My background or "life history" is integral to my artwork and the experiences that affect me most often appear there.