Artful Ancestry: Art gallery hosts ‘Heritage Habitats,’ an installation by Ginger Owen-Murakami and Vicki VanAmeyden’s

Dhenai Tunstall, Staff Reporter

On Tuesday, October 25, 2016 Texas A&M University–Commerce’s very own art gallery was able to exhibit the work of Ginger Owen-Murakami and Vicki VanAmeyden. Incorporated within the artist statement, “Heritage Habitats is a series of physical spaces for the contemplation and invocation of ancestry.” Composed of kites, cairns, and hankies, Heritage Habitats portrayed the generational ancestry of the artists.

When first entering the gallery, what stood out the most was the large number of white kites strewn across a large area of the gallery. Imprinted on the kites were pictures that looked like something you would find in a history book. Around the same time, both artists, Owen-Murakami and VanAmeyden received old photo albums from their grandparents due to death; Owen-Murakami received hers from her grandmother and VanAmeyden from her grandfather.

Although the kites would be perceived as the heart of the gallery, if it weren’t for the cairns, there wouldn’t have been a large scale of work. Artist VanAmeyden explains that the piece first started with the cairns, but the material wasn’t right, and they wanted to keep exploring their options. The kites were a better fit and the pictures were more easily identifiable. As kites can’t float by themselves, the source of them is a solid white dress fit for a small child way back when. The dress actually came about because Owen-Murakami was taking a sewing class. As the “umbilical cord-like lines,” stream from the girl’s dress, the kites are to represent the images of her ancestry that makes up her diverse background. The photos plastered on the kites were the photos that each of the artists received form their grandparents.

Speaking with VanAmeyden, she was able to point out one kite that had a picture of her grandfather, and another kite housed a photo of her at a year old in the arms of her parents. The handkerchiefs were colorful pieces of fabric that had a “western world viewpoint.” Implemented through the domestic lens, the images on the hankies displayed “symbols of humanity that tie and bond people worldwide.” The images used for this dimension of the gallery were appropriated from National Geographic subscription magazines from the 1920s.

The inspiration of Heritage Habitats was that Owen-Murakami and VanAmeyden wanted to create a large-scale work that was personal and connected to their history, as each of them were close to their grandparents. For VanAmeyden, it was her 2nd professional piece. The artists, although talented individual artists, felt as if they were stronger together and wanted to collaborate to create something that was important to the both of them.