"What are you?”, this is the direction many conversations throughout my life tend to go. As a multi-ethnic child of Lebanese, Norwegian, and Jewish descent growing up in Minnesota I did not look like the majority of the caucasian, blonde-haired, blue-eyed community and this reoccurring question was a constant reminder of that. I didn’t want to be “exotic”, “something else”, or “different”, I just wanted to fit in. I would look at my Grandmother with her blonde hair and blue eyes and wonder why that couldn’t have been me. This question of my otherness always brought up feelings of confusion, pain, and also curiosity. I wondered how my life might be if the genetic dice had been rolled differently.
In this work, I explore my questions of how I would feel and respond to seeing another possible version of myself. I approach the transformative process of these self-portraits by recombining and reselecting features by referencing a collection of my ancestral family photos (for various physicalities, hair textures, and skin tones), my ethnic heritage, and a scientific list of recessive and dominant genes. Through the application of make-up, wigs, and Photoshop I alter my appearance, again and again, each time with a different combination of possible outcomes. The process of reimagining my appearance brought with it an altered sense of identity and mindset. During the transforming, photographing, and editing of this work more questions about self arose: “Who is this woman?”, “How is her life different from mine?”, and “What ethnic group does she identify with?”
The connection between appearance, heritage, and identity emerge as an overlying theme for this series.