During our trip to the UK my Dad passed me a photocopy of a single sheet of typed paper with the military and trade union history of my grandfather, who we knew as Sonny.
During my trip to Australia my cousin Sally asked what had happened to Sonny.He never connected with us and spent his time in a room within the family house until my grandmother died when he underwent a rapid decline and went to live in a nursing home until he was 94.I was told he had a brain injury.I had always assumed he had PTSD.
Sonny was born to a large East End family.Sally had also handed me a bundle of genealogy research.I had original copy of his grandfather’s will.
In 1930 he joined the TGWU as a transfer driver was a delegate I/34 branch-then shop steward.
In 1939 He attended Ruskin College Tutors Course.From my research this was in Oxford.a group believed that people from any social status could be educated to a higher level and Sonny would have received a tuition at minimal cost and went on to Tutor at Leicester College of Technology.
In 1943 He was called up as a Driver in R.A.S.C.Drove Tank Transporters.Driver C.Q.M.S to British delegation three power conference at Potsdam Germany.Finished service in Bombay India. Demobbed Nov ’46.
1947 Secretary elected to National Shop Stewards committee-ran and attended meetings and conferences in Seymour Hall-Holborn Town Hall-Royal Albert Hall-Trafalgar Square and House of Commons during the time leading up to Transport Nationalisation.”Illness then forced me to finish Transport Driving and Union work connected with same”.
He joined U.P.W and P.O employment Dec 1966. I was born in the following March.
We currently have an exhibit exploring Polaroid images at my local museum.My first camera was a Polaroid and It captures the social housing of my childhood and a rare family picture of Sonny.The album was scratched by our cat but is one of the things that came through the Panama Canal when we changed continents.
In my studio there is a small Polaroid of my 10th birthday party which sits at the top of my inspiration board.Fancy dress of course.
Why is this so important to discuss now.Well recently I’ve had cause to reflect on my art while trying to decide on the next career move.I have really enjoyed getting back to work and being a teaching artist exploring social, emotional issues and trying to deliver a ciriculum that teaches empathy.
Empathy was the only element of the health and social care ciriculum I was delivering 10 years ago when I left the UK that I had no road map too.I once refuse a reference as I didn’t think the student had empathy and wanted to study social work.
Make Your Mark has shown me a great basis for connecting with students and I personally feel is a way to explore mindfulness with students from an early age, build community and emotional literacy through art making has been a privilege.
So why the protest art.Well probably back to Grandad Sonny and my Dad’s work for the TGWU in my childhood.Workers and for me ,as a pediatric nurse ,children’s rights run through all my art and philosophy.As a resident alien in the US I have no right to vote so issues inform my pieces.
I was recently told I make art that expresses anger.I actually know what I was expressing in the piece was emotion, freedom of choice and resisting peer pressure.Finding a place while creating to leave sometimes painful memory is great for mental health.Sharing the journey in a non-challenging space has been invaluable.
In my Oxford days I spoke at the first MIND conference address my recovery from a puerperal psychosis to clinical practice.I remember the audience coming up after and thanking me for giving them hope for their family members.In the PNW a year sharing of current work with the BAMdocent body serves much the same purpose.