Race, ethnicity, culture, ancestry, nationality, religion, spirituality, and gender each combine and contribute to the formation of our human identities. While personal identity should be a celebration of uniqueness as well as unity, human history has proven to assimilate, use, abuse, terrorize and even completely annihilate entire peoples because they’re core identities classified them as subordinate. My work could in no way encapsu- late the cruel injustices or general complexities of identity—in particular race. How could it? It is impossible to accurately depict and explain a socially constructed reality in simple or adequate terms. At very least, imag- ery can attempt to teach audiences about the nuances of identity in ways words cannot. Issues of race and ethnicity have a tendency to turn people away, out of discomfort, ignorance, lack of interest, the assumption that it does not pertain to them, or perhaps, most understandably for people of color, racial fatigue. By using aesthetically appealing patterns, colorful and pleasant hues, and dynamic figurative imagery, the work is inviting, approachable, and accessible. But upon closer inspection of imagery and subtle use of text, my greatest desire would be for viewers to be reminded of their own unique identity, and more importantly learn and contemplate aspects of a human experience outside of their own. As I have embarked on this journey of identity exploration, I have delved into other’s personal narratives, social science research that contextualizes our society, and finally my own mixed background. It is essential that each of us embark on such a journey of personal, informational, emotionally sincere, and explorative grappling. Our shared repre- hensible human history requires individual and institutional reconciliation.
Aïsha Lehmann is an artist based in Provo, Utah. She is currently in Brigham Young University’s Studio Art BFA program, with minors in Sociology and Africana Studies. She is an artist and researcher, grappling with the complexities of identity in race, ethnicity, gender, and spirituality. As she researches, she examines academic studies as well as her own gathered material on others’ personal experiences and narratives.