BINARY communicates what it’s like to exist in the threshold between Black and white cultures.
Biracial people are often fetishized and looked at as erotic and exotic. Historically, biracial children have been regarded as abominations. Being specifically half Black, half white has a dark history in America, stemming from the sexual exploitation of the slave owner and slave, forced relationship. Most people forget that interracial marriage was not made fully legal in the United States until 1967 (Loving v. Virginia). In truth, biracial children often grow up feeling isolated, embarrassed, and excluded. There’s a popular saying: “Too black for the white kids. Too white for the black kids.” According to the Maslow hierarchy of needs, belonging is a base level of psychological need.
Using sociological concepts, like in-group vs. out-group effects, and the basic human psychology of Othering, this body of work challenges the dominant narratives and stereotypes that dictate the biracial social experience.
To have each work be an authentic expression of myself, I incorporate personal materials, like my hair, in my paintings. My hair being a dominant factor of my identity, it can be likened to a DNA signature or a time capsule of sorts. The viewer is heavily considered in each piece. I place abstracted figures in typical social scenes and metaphysical spaces to further communicate feelings of tension and unfamiliarity. BINARY provides an intimate look into my insecurities as an outsider. Through this vulnerability, I can better understand myself and my identity.
This work is an immersive psychological portrait of myself and my experience of being biracial in society. The viewer is last to be picked for a game. This uncomfortable moment of waiting to be chosen is suspended in time, giving the feeling of unease, tension, and even embarrassment. The figures are supposed to appear mysterious and unknown, as that's how it feels for me to belong to either of those teams/ cultures. Unwanted. Many methods were used to bring texture into the concrete background, one of which included using my own hair. Being biracial, my hair is a huge part of my identity. Turbulent water is flooding the picture plane to convey a feeling of urgency, time is running out.
This is the beginning of my next series of paintings focusing on the role of "other".
The term Othering describes the reductive action of labeling and defining a person as a subaltern native, as someone who belongs to the socially subordinate category of the Other. The practice of Othering excludes persons who do not fit the norm of the social group, which is a version of the Self.
One of the ways that groups can be powerful is through inclusion, and its inverse, exclusion. The feeling that we belong in an elite or select group is a heady one, while the feeling of not being allowed in, or of being in competition with a group, can be motivating in a different way. Sociologist William Sumner (1840–1910) developed the concepts of in-group and out-group to explain this phenomenon (Sumner 1906). In short, an in-group is the group that an individual feels she belongs to, and she believes it to be an integral part of who she is. An out-group, conversely, is a group someone doesn’t belong to; often we may feel disdain or competition in relationship to an out-group.
In the 1920s, the first theoretical studies on the psychological disposition of mixed- race individuals were published. These studies developed the marginal man hypothesis. They concluded that mulattoes were destined to experience social and psychological stress because they existed between social worlds.
I chose to pull the figures from my paintings out into 3D space to confront the viewer.
BINARY ends with my newest series, Others. Read more about Others under my "Selected Work" tab!