Written by Taylor Humby. Originally posted Feb. 26th, 2019
The “In the Mix” exhibition, currently displayed in the Liberal Arts building on Boise State’s campus, attempts to spark dialogue surrounding racial identity with a show consisting of 13 artists from across the country, contributing art that comments on the cultural construct of race. The diverse cast of artists hail from cities across the United States and work in various artistic media and approaches to tackle this important topic.
The theme was conceived by Visual Arts Center gallery director Kirsten Furlong, who curated all the artists involved.
“My interest in showing the work here at Boise State is to open up a dialogue about this topic,” Furlong said. “I think race is a hard topic for people to talk about sometimes, but it’s really important for understanding students of color, (and) students who are in classes and (making) new relationships with different kinds of people.”
Furlong attempted to find artists who contributed completely different takes on the topic, but were still able to open up a discussion surrounding race and identity within their audiences. Citing a recent article surrounding race on campus, she illustrated the importance of exhibitions like this one being available to students.
“There was a recent article that was really disturbing to me about some things that are going on in the dorms, around students of color not feeling comfortable and welcome,” Furlong said. “Obviously, this show wasn’t in relation to the (article) specifically, but I think it raises the importance of an exhibition like this and being able to have these types of discussions in a place that’s safe.”
Although Furlong has organized over 100 exhibitions for the Visual Arts Center, the importance of this particular show involved more of a personal commitment to the discussion, originating from her own experiences as a biracial person.
“I hope that there (are) students and faculty and people in the community that relate to some of the work personally, or (that) it can open and teach somebody something new about racial identity,” Furlong said.
Alongside education, the hope of bringing outside artists to Boise State is to offer future work opportunities and outside perspectives to our campus.
“To connect these diverse artists to Boise State opens the door to future collaborations with faculty and students, which is so important, as our campus does not boast a super diverse faculty,” Furlong said. “Even though it’s just a temporary situation, one of the artists visited to teach a workshop and lecture. Even just having that temporary energy of an outside voice that’s bringing this different perspective, I think is really important”
Multimedia specialist Jade Hoyer, one of 13 artists, contributed a letterpress book to the exhibition titled “How Asian are you?,” depicting a tongue-in-cheek guideline for helping a biracial person identify what race they would fit into based on their skin tone, otherwise known as colorism.
“Obviously, it has no applicable real-life use because it shows hues of color that don’t exist in skin tones,” Hoyer said. “The personal inspiration connected to it was my lived experience as a biracial individual. As light-skinned and white-passing, whose sort of visual presentation to the world wouldn’t necessarily read as a person of color, I have struggled with self-identifying the Filipino aspects of myself.”
Hoyer hopes to provoke thought surrounding education of social inequality and race through her work, in order to provide a moment of recognition for artists and individuals.
“I think that it’s really easy to be reductive on how we think about diverse artists, (and) it’s really tempting to think of diversity as people of color or not people of color,” Hoyer said. “To actually be part of an exhibition of people who proudly identify as multiracial, but who are probably often codified into more essential groupings, whether that’s diverse artists or, like in my situation, white-passing, is really special and a unique curation”
Boise State alum and painter, Jared Andreas, echoed this idea of commenting on racial identity. Often describing his paintings as figurative or narrative, Andreas attempts to confront ideas about identity, otherness and representation.
“In addition to surrealistic qualities that continually show up in my work, I enjoy combining historical references with contemporary imagery to create scenes that are simultaneously familiar and ambiguous,” Andreas said. “I hope that my paintings possess qualities that challenge the audience to question the construction of identity and the stereotypes that are often connected to it. I feel honored to be a part of the exhibition. The variety and strength of the work is impressive. It’s really exciting to see how other artists tackle ideas about biracial and multiracial identities.”
The “In the Mix” exhibition will be on display through March 26, closed during spring break, but otherwise open Monday through Thursday from 10-5 p.m., and Friday from 10-2 p.m. in the Visual Arts Gallery within the Liberal Arts building.
Read the article on Arbiter Online.