Meeting The Parents

Valérie Chaussonnet
H 14″ x W 22″ x D 5”
Steel • 2018

These two sculptures narrate two related stages of anxiety about how one fits in a partner’s
family culture, and then, possibly as a family, in a larger, new community.

“Meeting the Parents” was designed and titled to elude a smile or, in the best case, a laugh at

the evocation of an archetypal and universal challenge, which would, hopefully, retrospectively
be remembered as small, but seemed huge and scary then. Still, I suspect many therapists
maintain a busy schedule in relation to unresolved in-laws issues.

This piece was created as a specific vision of crossing the very wide Amur River between the
land of the Nanai people of Siberia and their cousins in China. I contrasted the thin couple,
huddled in a precarious balance to suggest youth and frailty, with the sturdy parental figures
against which they seem to be about to fall. These are stylistically reminiscent of traditional
wooden charms of the Nanai tribe. I had the privilege to select some of these Nanai home
guardians from Siberian museums for an exhibition while working as a museum anthropologist
in the 1990s. On that trip, I was awed at the sight of the Amur, a name that resonates well in the
French language and with me. The notion of having to cross vast natural expanses to visit
relatives or to search for a new home, in the context of contrary geopolitical boundaries, also
looms, dark and relevant, behind the light-hearted humor of the title given to this piece. The
sturdiness and protective sides of the nef is my incantation to make such a journey safe. The
forefront post of the sculpture reinforces this optimistic spell, a pier visually anchoring the
dizzying seesaw of the boat. I positioned it next to its matching negative, meant to signify a
good luck charm and the symbol of a good complementary pairing in my story.