PERSISTENCE of Memory

I believe memory exists not only to remind us of where we’ve been or where we’ve come from, but to guide us and help us heal. It interests me that the older I get, the less I can remember from my formative years, however, what I do becomes the most important. 

Memory comes back to me in photographic flashbacks: the good always remains but fades with time, the traumatic resurface slower, but intense and vivid all at once. I was born in 1998, old enough for my first “real” memory to be of 9/11, although I truly can’t say I knew what was happening. Then, a month later my younger brother was born. 

The next is disoriented screaming, flashing lights through my bedroom window, muffled sounds of gunshots down the block as I was upstairs in bed. The SWAT team was guarding off my street and knocking on our door. Nearly 20 years later, I can finally understand that this was due to a Vietnam Veteran who lived on the corner, and whose PTSD had triggered him to shoot.  

My earliest happy memories date around the same time frame. Sometime in 2000, probably about 2, almost 3 years old, holding a lilac ball playing catch outside with my father. I remember sitting at the small farm-animal-themed table in our old vile yellow kitchen with the forest green floor tiles as I colored in a coloring book. 

I remember painting purple stars on the walls with my father when I graduated out of my crib and into my new “big girl” room upstairs.  I remember coloring over the puke-yellow walls in Crayola crayons before my parents decided to tear our kitchen down for demolition. 

Vividly I can picture myself in elementary school art class, the tables new and unscratched, the crisp room smelling of fresh cobalt blue paint on the walls. We would gather around our teacher, Ms. Halpern, who would drop a pin and ensure we all heard it grace the floor before she spoke. I was always quiet, more interested in which artist we would learn about as opposed to the anxiety-provoking multiplication test that awaited in the class upon our return. 

I remember recreating Van Gogh’s Sunflowers in oil pastel, the soft waxy feel as it molded to my hands and created rainbows under my fingernails and the earthy aroma of red clay on my hands as we created pottery. I only cared about what day it was for the sole purpose of whether or not it was time for the weekly art class – it was my escape. I can’t remember most of what I retained from grade school other than forming a keen interest in the arts.

This seems to be a common theme: those who excel and form interests in the arts foster them at a young age. I started playing the violin and joined the chorus in the third grade, although colors and forms stated their permanence in my life. I developed a fixation on transferring images from my mind into a physical form, my notes covered in drawings and doodles. This was and still is my way of creating a sense of our world.  

Throughout middle and high school I continued to find shelter in the art rooms. I created during my time of struggle. I won’t speak much about my depressive manic and self-destructive states as an early teen, but visually creating has always been one of my only methods of accurately channeling and representing my emotions. 

It was around this time I began to spend my summers in Manhattan, taking pre-college courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Art galleries and museums were now at my disposal on a level much higher than my suburban home town on Long Island. These galleries and museums became a sanctuary for me.

Years later and I’ve devoted myself to structure my life around the arts. My passion for the visual arts has followed persistently throughout my entire academic experience, my lifestyle, and is now reflected in my professional career. 

I’ve been an artist for as long as my memory allows. What can I say? Creating comes naturally. It keeps me grounded, consistently allowing me to portray my emotions and relay my memories in a universal language for each to resonate and reconcile as their own.  

As a visual artist and writer, I seek to educate and inspire others. I have an intimate understanding of how hard it is to spread our stories to the world. While it may be pain-staking, it is vital to recognize the importance of passing down our stories. We are not drastically different from one another once we allow ourselves to open up.

Whether this is conducted through visual imagery or words, it is how we relate and learn about ourselves, our relationships, our friends, our partners and lovers, and the generations both preceding and succeeding our own. 

Businesses and empires may be bound to fail, but there is permanence in the arts and culture. As Dali would say, there always has been, and always will be, a “persistence of memory.”

On the Rise: New England’s Indie Scene with Antonio Gonzalez

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By Sarah Desroche

A Massachusetts native, Antonio Gonzalez, has been spending the last six years of his life developing a professional music career. This Spotify-verified artist prides himself on incorporating folk, indie, and alternative rock into his songs, in which he pens himself as a singer-songwriter. Now, he’s studying music at Monmouth University in New Jersey, with ambitions to further his prosperous career as a musical artist.

Q: How would you classify your specific musical genre?

A: “I’d probably say it’s a mix of a lot of different genres, honestly. It’s hard to pin down because I take inspiration from many musicians whose music spans a wide variety of styles.” 

Q: Tell us a little bit about your personal background, where you come from, what drives your inspiration, etc.

A: “I’m from northern Massachusetts, last town before New Hampshire. I spent a lot of time traveling through New England as a kid and taking in what the states had to offer. I think what drives me is a kind of pseudo expectation of myself. Sort of like, “This is what I can do today but I should be able to do better tomorrow.” it keeps me in check, almost. It’s about doing, not  saying.”

Q: Who were your favorite musicians growing up?

A: “I spent many days driving with my mom when I was young and she made mixtapes for these trips. Notably, I really loved Maroon 5, Pink, The Beatles, Sarah McLoughlin, and a bunch of others. My dad loved jazz and classical music, so I really got an eclectic mix of music to grow up with.”

Q: Did growing up in a small town have any substantial influence on your artistry?

A: “I don’t think so. I was always determined to do what I wanted and I’ve never really been a fan of outside influence when it comes to creative work. I love collaborative work, but when it comes to the initial creation of music, I think that’s an extremely personal thing. Even if someone’s music isn’t “successful”, I’d prefer that over some less personal offerings.”

Q: When was the turning point in your life that you decided to pursue music? Was it a sudden epiphany, or a growing ambition that developed over time?

A: “After my first concert, I really wanted to do something could unite people across different backgrounds, but I didn’t think music was what I wanted to do until much later. I don’t think it was an epiphany or a slow burn decision, either. When I started playing music and writing songs I kind of said, “Well I can do this pretty well, and it satisfies the need to bring people together,” so I started taking it more seriously.”

Q: Was there ever a moment that you doubted yourself and your dreams? If so, how did you deal with that adversity?

A: “Pretty much every day. I spend a lot of time listening to music and being surrounded by really high-quality musicians and inevitably I compare myself to them. I just have to remind myself that as artists: we all specialize in something different, so what one person excels at might not be my strong suit, while what I’m good at is where somebody else struggles.”

Q: What obstacles have you overcome along the way, personally and musically?

A: “It’s hard to balance life and education with the pursuit of a career in music. I typically have so much to do in a day that it becomes hard to schedule a little time every day to practice or write. I struggle with mental health issues, so there are days where I’m totally motivated like, “Yeah, let’s kick some ass today!” and then there are others like, “I’m getting my ass kicked today.” It’s tough to find time to take care of myself and everything else.” 

Q: What drives the inspiration behind your lyrics, your melodies, and your artistry?

A: “In terms of imagery, I write about what I see or feel. Sometimes I’ll write about how nice everything is, and other times I’ll write more about the chaos of the world. My goal is to write music that has “defined lyrical meaning”, yet anyone can listen to it and have an idea about what it means. I want to create something universal, not so much something with a single meaning.”

Q: Where do you do most of your creating? (In a studio, your bedroom, etc)

A: “When it comes to the actual music, most of that comes from sitting at home and playing around on the guitar. Sometimes when I have an idea and I’m not home with an instrument, I open up voice memos and record a little melody to work on later. Most of my lyrics come from just observing what’s going on around me. Sometimes I’ll be watching the news and think of a lyric, or on a walk, or listening to a speech, or reading. I try to find inspiration everywhere I am to diversify the music I write.”

Q: Do you believe that New England’s folk/indie scene is unique compared to the rest of the world? Why or why not?

A: “I think the unique part of these genres is that they’re relatively niche. So if you fall into listening to a lot of them, your musical community isn’t restricted to your physical location. You can go from small-town Massachusetts to big-city California and still find people who like what you like and connect with music in the same vein.”

Q: What are your current projects, and what are your ambitions for the future?

A: “Recently I released an EP called ‘You’ll Be Fine’, which is available on all streaming services. It was a long time in the making and I’m so appreciative of everyone who came and helped turn an idea into a result. I’m also planning on recording two singles before the spring and releasing them everywhere as well. My hope is that I can really build a community of listeners and connect with them with more and more music.”

Q: Lastly, what advice would you give to other budding musicians?

A: “Definitely just don’t stop. Whatever your instrument, style, lyricism may be, don’t stop working. You will get discouraged, you will find it hard to get better, you will lose motivation, but in the face of all that, just keep making music. Even if it’s only for ten minutes a day, do it. Because eventually you’ll find your motivation again and you’ll take everything you’ve done and make it even better.”

You can stream Antonio Gonzalez’ newest EP release, “You’ll Be Fine”, on Spotify, or follow him on Instagram at @santiago_keyes.