Meghan M. Burke - November 2006

I spent five months in Japan and it truly influenced the way I see myself in this world.  I never felt so alone and so different in my life.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not fit in. I was the outsider, the Gaijin. And the culture did not accommodate for my differences which only added to my vulnerability.

My series demonstrates the political and social struggles I encountered, and more specifically, that my feet encountered.  I let my paintings of feet and shoes represent the cultural struggles I experienced while in Japan. In the Japanese culture, feet and shoes express a great deal and because of that, I felt I could never fit in.  As much as I would try, my feet always got in the way. 

This series expresses the Japanese shoe fashion, and more deeply my struggle to connect with their culture.  The shoes are hidden stories, the protector, and the shield to hide the mystery unseen. 

The process and materials demonstrate the vulnerability of the cultural struggles.   I paint on large sheets of paper, which connects me to the memories.  Because of my limits to supplies, I painted only on paper and mostly newspaper when I was in Japan. So for this series, paper seemed only appropriate.

My painting style is to build up texture with the paint.  Drips, scratches into the paint, layers of gesso, oil pastels…many layers of texture.  I also use layers of color throughout the process to create vibrant colors.  In this series, I attached images from Japanese newspapers to amplify the emotional and political struggles I encountered.   The images drawn onto each painting are quick contour drawings with oil pastel. 

Oddly enough, my series helped me reconnect with Japan. Although the cultural differences will always be there, I no longer feel like the outsider.  Whereas I am not Japanese, I do not feel like the Gaijin either.