Childhood Trauma and the Construction of Identity

My sustained investigation is based on my grandmother’s experience surviving the Holocaust as a child and the lingering effects of childhood trauma on one’s identity. My work questions the relationship between the physical self and the emotional wounds of a child and challenges the viewer to question what trauma would look like in the moment the traumatic event occurs. 

I began my collection of work depicting direct moments of my grandmother’s trauma in WWII, inspired by anecdotes written in her biographical book. However, I soon questioned the ways in which I can exemplify trauma as an emotion on the physical body without ever depicting the event itself. How does trauma leave a scar, both physically and mentally, and both as the event occurs and proceeds? While the first half of my work reflects the innocence of a child facing trauma, as represented in a soft, limited color scheme and minimal destruction to the facial composition, I later challenged myself to dismantle the face to represent the shift from a child to adult when a youth is faced with torment and loss of oneself. Many of my earlier pieces incorporate lines to reflect the entanglement of growing up with trauma and earth elements such as fire to symbolize the burns and scars of trauma on the physical and emotional being. While parts of my collection reflect the hopelessness and struggle of combating childhood trauma, other pieces represent the possible ways to untangle trauma in search of hope, as seen in the pieces where the tangled lines are cut short.  Along similar lines, my first piece illustrates a flower stitching up the subject’s face as a symbol of strength and perseverance. The flowers are inspired by a piece of fabric my great grandmother kept throughout war.