Martina Sestakova

Sestakova_ Martina.jpg

I admit to having felt conflicted about how to use the square to tell my experience of being an immigrant. I came to the US in 2002 as an au-pair planning to stay with a family for a year. Yet, that year turned into 15 years of an incredibly colorful life. As any immigrant, I had both moments of being truly accepted as a human being and of feeling excluded as the 'other' or sometimes viewed as the 'help'. While dealing with a bit of immigration paperwork, I went to college, held a variety of jobs, started my own company. I gained and lost friends. As I was pondering how to use my board to represent my story, it dawned on me that my story is no really 'just' mine. It's the story of all who touched my life in any and every way. So, I got to work. My board has two aspects. First, I browsed through 15 years of photos and picked moments that sometimes meant a lot and others that were just a quick passing experience. It feels like life is just like that: the big is mixed in with the little and vice versa. What an emotional experience! I saw so many faces, so many stories, in all of those photos. People who invited me into their lives; people who I literally have known since day one in the country. To honor their anonymity, I added a filter to all images as I assembled them into a collage. Some photos sit nicely next to each other; others clash. Some pop with color; others take your eye in as they are dark and you need to search for the silhouettes. One of the photos is the first photo taken of me in the US, another one of a former supervisor who gave me advice I use in my life daily. My parents, friends, kids I took care of, people I am not in touch anymore ... They are all part of my experience of establishing a life in the US. The second aspect of my square is sound. I am a big believer in the power of words. What one says matters and makes an impact. I recall many things said to me over the years. Some were words of inclusion and encouragement. Some stopped me in my tracks and their sharpness took my breath away. I recorded two words that are the title of my square: "Community. Connection." The sound wave recordings sit on top of the photos and bring together my experience as one of richness and gratitude.