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  • Writer's pictureHannah Ghafary

Artists' Insight: Nature vs. Nurture

Nature vs. Nurture (acrylic on canvas, 2020).

Hi all!

Welcome back to my little corner of the Internet. I hope you're all staying healthy and staying home. This is the second edition of my Insight series here on Posh & Painterly, a series where I share explanations and insights behind the works I create. This week I will be sharing a commentary on one of my newest pieces, "Nature vs. Nurture (acrylic on canvas, 2020)".

First and foremost, I want to start this post by saying I am so overwhelmed and appreciative of the love I've received on this piece. It is safe to say that waking up to my tweet going viral was certainly the highlight of my week, and it means so much to me to know that my work resonated with others.

When starting this piece, I was focused on using my art to further explore the essence of human identity. I've always had a passion for psychology and sociology. For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in understanding how and why people are the way that they are.

Progress photo of the work before completed.

Much of the inspiration for this piece came from a book I recently read: Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight by M.E. Thomas. Recommended to me by a good friend and fellow avid reader, this book delves into the complex minds of those diagnosed with anti-social personality disorders. Reading this testimony reignited an interest in me to understand and explore the complex concept of nature vs. nurture through my art.

Nature vs. nurture is the ongoing debate as to whether a person's behavior is determined by genetic predispositions or by outside influences from one's environment. In this context, "nature" refers to biological genetics that are passed down through generations. Mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder, would be an example of "nature" factors that could potentially shape human traits and behaviors. Likewise, "nurture" describes the influence of one's environment on personality and behavior. Growing up in an abusive household or experiencing other trauma at a young age are some unfortunate examples of how "nurture", or one's environment, could potentially affect the person you become.

My painting was created to visually explore and illustrate these concepts. The plants and elements of nature in the piece are meant to represent the "nature" side of nature vs. nurture. I incorporated these elements closely with the figure to parallel the idea that nature factors come from within. I also chose to include butterflies because they represent metamorphosis and change. In my personal opinion, the human identity is constantly changing, because we are constantly growing and adapting from our experiences.

The dark outer space background was painted to represent the idea of "nurture". I selected a dark environment because, while I feel that we are a product of all of our experiences, I personally believe that negative experiences in particular have the strongest impact on us and our identity. This could be interpreted as a positive or a negative; it is very possible that traumatic experiences could foster negative personality traits and defense mechanisms, but it is also possible that they could force us to become stronger, adapt and grow as individuals. It is my hope that when you look at this piece, these are the kinds of questions and ideas that you will contemplate. Why am I the person that I am? How can I use that understanding to become the best version of me?

Work by Alexandra Levasseur.

I find a lot of inspiration for my work from Pinterest and Inspiration Grid. If you want to see some of the many images that I save to reference and use for inspiration on a rainy day, you can follow my Pinterest board here. For this particular piece, I found inspiration from Montreal-based artist Alexandra Levasseur's paintings. The work pictured (right) inspired me to replace my figures face solely with elements of nature, and to not be afraid to experiment with boldly eliminating such an essential part of the human essence.

I hope you enjoyed learning more about the intentions behind this piece and the process of creating it! Prints and stickers of this piece will be available for purchase in my shop. If you didn't get a chance to read my last insight, you can learn about my Amor Fati piece here. I will be sharing a third edition of my Insight series next week where I give an in-depth explanation of my newest painting, "I'm OK".

Until next time! ♡

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