Join us Upstairs @ MW on October 29 from 6-7pm for the Arist Discussion Mixed Identity through Art, Sociology, and Personal Narrative with represented artist Aïsha Lehmann, on the takeaways she had from the interviews that influenced her body of work at Finch Lane Gallery. Make sure to stop by Finch Lane Gallery to see her exhibition on view through November 19, and sign up here for the discussion Upstairs @ MW, which will be an elaboration on mixed-race identity in tandem with the show.
Historically, interracial relationships were heavily patrolled and condemned. This was
done on the basis of religious or pseudoscientific ideologies meant to justify segregationist laws
and policies. According to these ideologies, since race implied a hierarchy, the mixing of the
“superior” white race with an “inferior” nonwhite race meant the degradation of posterity and
society as a whole. Ultimately, the descendants of interracial unions were seen as lesser
This detrimental belief overlooked the incredible value of a diverse population, not to
mention mixed-race individuals who represent the merging of two human cultures. Today,
mixed-race people are one of the fastest growing demographics in the United States. Even
amidst persistent institutional racism, our diversifying population has created a more equitable
and innovative society that has learned to cherish experiences that differ from our own.
This body of work is based on a series of interviews conducted with individuals of mixed-
race, or in other words, individuals with parents that belong to two different racial or ethnic
groups. Of course, the category “mixed-race” is incredibly broad and indefinite. The individuals
in these pieces are by no means meant to encapsulate each racial or ethnic category or
represent an entire race. In fact, reducing a person to a mere racial category does not
accurately or adequately embody the individuality and worth of a human being. This show
hyper-focuses on the individual: the personal, the story, the heritage, and the merging of two
different yet complementary family lineages. It leans into the persistent complexities and
disadvantages of a society that assumes binary racial divides, juxtaposed with the beautiful
aspects of mixed identity.
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. She translates observations into imagery using paper, patterns, drawing, and printmaking techniques. She is preparing for an upcoming solo show at the Finch Lane Gallery in Salt Lake City.
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 encapsulate 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, imagery 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 reprehensible human history requires individual and institutional reconciliation.