From the time that I was very young, I have been asked "What are you?" in reference to my mixed Lebanese, Norwegian, and Jewish heritage. Growing up in Midwestern America I did not look like the majority of my community and this question always brought up feelings of confusion, curiosity, and pain. Over time a yearning to know how my life might have been if the genetic dice had been rolled differently grew. I needed to know how I would feel and respond to seeing another possible version of me.
For these self-portraits, I approach the transformative process of 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.