The Birthday: A Storybook
My art practice is informed by storytelling. I create fictional characters based on historical biographies and embellished with autobiographical details. These characters are fantastical extensions of me: they function like self portraits where I hide and reveal aspects of myself. My MAA project at ECU is an extension of my work in fictional portraiture, with more emphasis on the autobiographical component.
As an animator, I tell stories through moving pictures, but for this project, I am exploring a different way of providing the story for my characters; I am working on an illustrated story book as a context in which to present my character art.
The story that I have created, The Birthday, is inspired by classic fairy tales and contemporary children’s fiction; it is a fictionalized account of my early experience as a Canadian immigrant. The concept of the mask and of masking is often associated with the concept of identity. This is a central theme in The Birthday. The story traces my initial period of identity crisis in adjusting to life in a new country. In spite of the deeply personal experience from which this story is drawn, The Birthday is also an allegorical tale that addresses universal issues concerning the idea of loss of identity and its possible regaining through the process of self re-discovery.
The Birthday takes place in a futuristic society where everyone wears masks in public. The story centers on the developing relationship of two orphaned brothers, Schuza and Iztanu Muhandiss, caught in the midst of a family crisis. The last descendants of an impoverished aristocratic family, they are faced with the difficult situation of having to share one mask between them, and thus having to take turns in public. However, Iztanu, the youngest Muhandian, has been keeping a secret which, if revealed, may change the brothers’ lives forever.
In this project I have integrated an extra dimension to my character portraits by illustrating the dynamics between multiple characters. This not only represents a more accurate picture of my internal struggles at that time, but also allows The Birthday to become an evolving portrait.