Sometimes an old photograph, an old friend, an old letter will remind you that you are not who you once were, for the person who dwelt among them, valued this, chose that, wrote thus no longer exists. Without noticing it you have traversed a great distance; the strange has become familiar if not strange at least awkward or uncomfortable, an outgrown garment. And some people travel far more than others. There are those who receive as a birthright an adequate or at least unquestioned sense of self and those who set out to reinvent themselves, for survival or for satisfaction, and travel far. Some people inherit values and practices as a house they inhabit; some of us have to burn down that house, find our own ground, build from scratch, even as a psychological metamorphosis (80).
Eduardo Galeano notes that America was conquered, but not discovered, that the men who arrived with a religion to impose and dreams of gold ever really knew where they were, and that this discovery is still taking place in our time. This suggest that most European-Americans remained lost over the centuries, lost not in practical terms but in the more profound sense of apprehending where they truly were, of caring what the history of the place was and its nature (66).
Art history in particular is often cast as an almost biblical lineage, a long line of begats in which painters descend purely from painters. Just as purely patrilineal Old Testament genealogies leave out mothers and even fathers of the mothers, so these tidy stories leave out all the sources of inspirations that come from other media and other encounters, from poems, dreams, politics, doubts, a childhood experience, a sense of place, leave out the fact that history is made more of crossroads, branchings, and tangles than straight lines. These other sources I called the grandmothers (59).
I think sometimes that I became a historian because I didn’t have a history, but also because I was interested in telling the truth in a family in which truth was an elusive entity. It could best be served not by claiming an authoritative and disinterested relationship to the facts, but by disclosing your own desires and agendas, for truth lies not only in incidents but in hopes and needs. The histories I’ve written have often been hidden, lost, neglected, too broad, or too amorphous to show up in other’s radar screens, histories that are not neat fields that belong to someone but the paths and waterways that meander through many fields and belong to no one (58-59).