Graduate Student Spotlight

Cara Marie Young
My Artistic Practice: Transformation In Quarantine

I am truly thankful for the opportunity that has been given to me through Wayne State and do not desire to waste one moment. This summer is becoming more interesting each day, and there is much on my mind. Painting has also continued to evolve into something new, and I fear that if I wait any longer, it may be hard to contain it within my apartment. In the meantime, I have been focusing heavily on my health and spiritual strength. So much is taking place in the world right now, and it has caused me to confront many things--including that which is within myself. 

As a child, it was hard for me to see a place in the world for myself. It was almost as if I could not depend on the reality of what I saw would happen to me if I would exist the way that I am. This mentally affected me heavily in my youth, my perspective of self-worth, my ideas of what true beauty was...or at least what I imagined it to look like. 

I am confiding these things to you as a magnitude has been lifted and I have spent this time embracing truth and the truth of who I am. Ever since the first day of my life, I struggled with believing the idea I was worth the opportunity extended to me. I had nothing and nothing to lose in many ways, and so I moved and installed myself in what felt like an unforeseen future. (Relocating from Atlanta, Ga to Detroit in August 2019) If it were not for the opportunities that I was given in the past, there is a possibility that I could be dead. This due to the lack of financial and medical resources that I did not have and the equal uncertainty of my physical and mental security. 

Furthermore, upon entering the graduate studios at Wayne and imagining what idea, what body of work, or what face I needed to present myself with, I ran boldly into a wall. I could not begin to fathom or comprehend where to start in approaching new work or a new life--a life away from everything that I knew. The most difficult part about this is that everything that I knew was also laced with trauma and fear. The fear of being black and also the vulnerability of my biological womanhood which was threatened on several occasions by force during my undergraduate college experience... in other words, I slowly believed that this violation  was something I could always expect of my person and my body, and this would change how I felt I needed to carry myself as a person--and defend myself if necessary. 

So, finding myself in the studio, painting in circles, my artwork literally becoming the evidence of my trauma and human experience: neither African nor "American" (the face of that), constantly on a sliding scale and trying to find the meaning of it and the meaning of myself in between the lines. That sounds like a summary of first semester. Finding myself in the hospital in February, with a "walking pneumonia" (this I now believe certainly was covid as our hospitals did not have covid tests at the time. I am also type 1 diabetic, and the fact that I needed medical assistance to survive for 5 days [in comparison to the statistics of most type I diabetics with covid-19 during this time...that sounds about right too]. But I could be wrong).

This leads me to the painting that I have just finished (I actually posted a video walkthrough on my Instagram and have been sharing this with the department. It currently has over 900 views, so if there is any chance you are able to view it you are most welcome to).

I genuinely feel in my heart that God revealed this painting to me in a dream while I was healing from covid.  It was almost like seeing the hospital, the city, hundreds of faces and people of whom I met while I was confined within my bed. I could not look for references, or props, or think of how to assemble them as it was a place I could only see in my mind's eye. I could not sleep, but only see this place...and so, upon entering the world of quarantine and returning home, I found that it was impossible for me to paint in the same way. It was impossible for me to paint in circles within my own home for so long and realize that what I really needed was the deliverance of a dead mind.

And so I gave Jesus my eyes and he gave me this painting. This is the first painting that I have not used any references, photos, or setups from life. This is important as I was traditionally taught and have always learned from observation, both landscape and bodies alike. I chose to no longer depend on the reality of what I saw, but simply to paint the place that He desired me to see in that moment, and so it became. (May 17-Jun 17)

Now here we are, and I feel like I'm meeting myself for the first time. I hope that this story is compelling and also makes sense grammatically as I still have issues with filling sentences with so many words at a time. Regardless, another dream was revealed last night and I plan on starting the next painting today. I currently have a moquette that's about 2'x6' Since I'm running out of wall space at home. Though the desired size should be almost equivalent to the first (3x20').

Until this Fall, I hope to continue to bridge the gap between my newfound strength and the future of my life and career as an artist.  This would not have been made possible if not for the opportunity extended to me by Wayne State. There is hope my life in the future, and there's only forward from here.

Cara M. Young is a MFA Dean's Diversity Fellow Candidate in Painting,

For more on Cara's work, including the video walk through, visit her on Instagram: