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This is where it all starts for me. Black and white. Sport and craft. “Masculine” and “Feminine”. My Nana’s knitting on my basketball armband. I was always taught to think in opposites. It wasn’t so much from my family but from the broader North American culture I grew up in. I learned to see things in stark differences – good vs. bad, right vs. wrong, beautiful vs. ugly, and on and on and on. There wasn’t a lot of room for the grey areas, somewhere in-between. As a mixed-race kid who didn’t exactly fit in one camp or another, it was hard being asked to choose only one. To make the world a bit less complex, more comfortable and easier for others to understand.  It wasn’t until I started working on this project that I understood I was not alone.


The more I learned about the stories of my family, the more I could place myself within the bigger picture. The more I could find reference points for all the different pieces of me. Where the demands of others may have left me feeling fractured or fragmented, I learned to see myself as already whole.

No more and no less than any other person. Simply a unique blend of all the gifts and challenges of my specific family tree. On an ongoing path towards balance. Balance that is complex, that can hold multiple truths at once and that acknowledges many of us do not fit into the labels we’ve been offered. It’s the balance I’m seeking that I try to share in Aesthetics of the Archives which is on view until August 23 at the Art Gallery of Burlington. I invite you to visit this free exhibition and consider what balance feels like for you.

© 2020 Desmond A. Miller