A Creative Project
Displaying my Family History in the Strokes of a Brush
Looking to the Beginning to Explain the End
I don’t remember what we did the first day of class in English 1102. I remember that we got to vote and choose what the focus of our class should be. This sense of freedom and choice made me excited to begin this class and this excitement has continued on throughout the entire course. While I don’t remember the first day, I do remember what I consider to be the beginning. I believe that going back to the beginning of this project is a good way to conclude it and combine what I know now with what I knew then. What I consider the beginning, is when our teacher asked us to look up our names and their meanings. This simple task helped me learn what my name meant, where it came from, and how it reflects the culture of that area. Knowing what my last name means was the inspiration for a large portion of my creative project. The last name Hellmann means ‘precipitous terrain’, ‘steep slope’, and is a German nickname for ‘Hell-raiser’.
I decided to display my last names meaning in an artistic style, which is why the focus of the painting is a man hiking a mountain. He is displayed trying to conquer the steep slope as he hikes upward. The hiker then comes to a fork in his hiking trail and having to pick which way to go. This fork is used to represent the major choices that my ancestors had to face. The hiker walks directly between these two paths in order to show the theme of risk in my family history and to show that my family often strays from the ordinary path. On the hiker’s backpack there is a large label that reads ‘hell-raiser’. I put a label on the hiker not only to relate to the German nickname, but also so he must bare it everywhere he travels. He must have this label in each new place he travels to and it represents the labels people placed on my grandparent’s for being in an interfaith marriage, the labels my ancestors faced for being Jewish, and the labels my ancestors faced for being Catholic. The impact of labels has been very prevalent in our past. To continue, I made the hiker look almost like a silhouette as he is painted entirely black in order to show that while he is looked down on by society for being a Hell-raiser, he is really the same as everybody else. His silhouette would look like any other hiker’s silhouette, meaning that all people should be seen as equal and not defined by one thing or one label. Finally, the artwork is mostly done in neutral colors, with a very gray background. The background is meant to relate to German landscape paintings which were often very dull and earthy tones.
This concludes my project because it relates what I originally learned to the new information that I have gathered. It also does an effective job of synthesizing information and explaining our history, such as with the labels my ancestors faced. I also have included photos from a family ancestry book which we are creating together. My aunt started making it and I am helping her fill in the gaps that she is missing in our history. I intend to create one for the Hellmann family as well since I focused on my grandma and her 85th birthday is coming up. This painting as well as the ancestry book demonstrates how much my family and I have enjoyed learning about our past. The past is something that we should cherish as it gives us insight into ourselves and our futures. I hope this painting gives you an idea of who we are and what has impacted us.