"CULTURAL MEMORY & VISIONS OF PLACE"
A series of work documenting the beauty and paradox of the borderland narrative by Corinne Whittemore.
Corinne Whittemore is an artist, single mother, graphic designer and educator. She grew up in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV), received her MFA in Visual Communications from the University of Arizona and has been teaching at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley for the past five years in graphic design. Corinne has worked in the field of graphic design for over fifteen years as a Production Artist, Graphic Designer, Marketing Coordinator and Freelancer on both the East and West Coasts. She lived, most recently, in Virginia Beach, VA before moving back to the RGV in 2014. Corinne has and continues to freelance, consult and exhibits her artwork locally, nationally and internationally.
The borderlands (between the U.S. and Mexico in the Rio Grande Valley), where I grew up, is often a place where the blending of American and Mexican culture occurs. Although this “blending” is sometimes viewed as negative, forceful, oppressive and/or stemming from colonialism, my experience is that while the combination is full of complexity and paradox, it is also beautiful. This fragmented cultural fusion is a visual account of my hybrid border identity. My art is a transcultural narrative from the female perspective. It is as much a personal documentation and exploration of my struggle to find, claim and embrace place and cultural identity as it is a visual account of the thriving culture unique to this region.
My desire to celebrate the combined cultures stems from my personal experience with adoption. I was adopted as an infant to a loving white couple with only one piece of information about my biological heritage being passed to my adoptive parents through my caseworker—that I am of Mexican descent. As was common during the time, my adoption was closed, which meant that all records concerning both parties were sealed.
The border is a metaphor for me on many levels. It reflects a psychological impasse; an internal boundary that fails to be breached. The “other side” has a fantastical and somewhat surreal element where there is a longing to fit, find residence and blend with my surroundings. A border can be defined as an “other,” a story unfamiliar, unknown, feared, rejected, formerly dismissed. A divide. Closed adoption has created a divide; a communication barrier between myself and my biological cultural heritage. My art helps me bridge that divide.
Another source of my passion and desire to see the beauty in the two blended cultures is my daughter, Elizabeth. She is also adopted. Elizabeth’s adoption is not closed, it is open. Her birth mother is Mexican and her birth father is White.
Together, these stories fuel my art and drive my desire to document the beauty and paradox of my borderland narrative. I use the images from photographs I have taken over a period of 15 years of areas along the border and in the Rio Grande Valley of flea markets, religious icons, popular culture and street and storefront signage superimposing and layering them together creating a new space; digitally manipulating objects, colors and textures to create new vibrant landscapes. Through my art I strive to analyze and deconstruct; internalize and resonate with; re-construct and re-envision in order to form a new visual heritage.
Found on the street—discarded
It pierces me to take notice
Looking for a sense of self
Trying to recognize myself in the lost
I transport myself to a place
Where I take hold of the heritage
Once lost, ignored and unacknowledged
Claiming it as my own.
I am Chicana
— Corinne Whittemore