Charles Ray. Family romance. 1993 208

Painted fiberglass and hair, 53" x 7' 1" x 11" (134.6 x 215.9 x 27.9 cm). Gift of the Peter Norton Family Foundation. © 2023 Charles Ray

Artist, Charles Ray: This sculpture, called Family Romance was made in 1993, and that whole thing about 'family values' was, you know, all the talk. Family values, family values. And I had helped raise a stepson. And I knew that this kind of equation of family values, it always spoke of the values as the parents' values and the power from the parent’s point of view. And raising a stepson I knew how much power children have over their parents, and it seemed that the equation was much more in two directions than the politicians of the time wanted to talk about.

So I got this idea to make a family, and you know, level the family somehow. So I shrunk the parents down and raised the children up so that they all met at about four feet two-and-a-half inches. It was difficult to get that proportion. These sort of shifting scales are joined and resolved at the juncture of the hands. And you know, how do you get these different scales to come together at those points?

I wanted the father to be about like me at the time: in his mid- to late 30s, gone a little bit to pot; the Mom to be a little bit over the hill after having two kids. The boy is closer to the mean average of the proper height. The only figure that isn't anatomically correct is the girl because she's supposed to be about two, and if you ever look closely at a two-year old their heads are huge. So when the piece was made correctly, it looked like three people and an alien. This was still while it was in clay. So we took about 60 pounds of clay off the girl's head. So, she's the only one that in a sense isn't anatomically correct. But anyway, I think you can find the meaning of this sculpture where the hands come together.

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