How Could You Understand_Terra Fine
How Could You Understand, charcoal on paper.

“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” ~ George Orwell

Regardless of age, gender, or cultural background, within all of us is the strong desire to be known and seen for who we truly are and not for how others perceive us.

We long to be understood as a person, to connect with another human being, but we assume no one else can possibly feel our heartache or fears or longing.

Judgments are often made based on age; the young are seen as reckless and naïve, the elderly as boring and out of touch. We think, how could she possibly understand, she’s just an old woman? Or, these kids today don’t know what life’s all about. We think they don’t know what it’s like to be me.

Relative Distance, my most recent series of charcoal portraits, focuses on this rift between generations. Within each portrait,t you see two people, physically so close, almost touching, yet the emotional distance between them seems unbearably vast.

Each drawing is composed to reveal an intimate scene as if we’ve stumbled upon a moment of tension, a point in the relationship where neither person can break through to the other. Assumptions have been made; walls have gone up; there is nothing more to be said.

Terra Fine artist charcoal drawing, Can You See Me
Can You See Me At All, charcoal on paper.

In the portrait Can You See Me At All? two women stand, faces inches apart, without seeing each other. Both entrenched in their own thoughts, the younger with piercings and heavy makeup, eyes clenched, the older with lines creasing her face and lips drawn tight. Each woman simultaneously accuses and desperately seeks acknowledgement of the other with that one simple question.

A similar scene is drawn in How Could You Understand? with evidence of sorrow and emotional isolation etched on the faces of two women, old and young, cast in deep shadow. There is a darkness present in these images, a sadness.

As an artist and observer of people, I believe these conditions to be self-inflicted. We don’t have to feel so alone. If only we didn’t assume that our experiences were so unique, if only we saw others with our heart and not our eyes, if only we let ourselves be more vulnerable, if only we took the time to truly listen to each other, if only…

Perhaps an answer lies in the third portrait featured here, Building Bridges, where both the physical and emotional gaps are “bridged” by the extended hand of a child and the indulgent smile of an elder. Their eyes lock as they see the other and accept all that they behold.

Is it their extreme distance in age that allows for this connection? The infant has not yet learned to be cynical and presumptuous and the elder has outgrown the need for it.

Building Bridges, charcoal drawing by Terra Fine
Building Bridges, charcoal on paper.