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My artwork is a dialogue that explores the complicated world of racial identity and the desire to find my place within it as a multiracial individual. The basis of the series emanates from the hidden history of people of mixed race in relation to American society. I use the human figure—a public and yet personal image—as a metaphor for my own experiences. My goal is to convey the struggle, hardships, and various categorizations that I have undergone through body language and facial expression. The different contortions of the body and the intense gazes help convey my feelings of desperation, isolation, vulnerability, and confusion. The figures depicted in my work represent parts of my inner self and can be described as self-portraits.
In preparation for my theme, I looked to the controversial subject matter of Kara Walker, the human forms of Robert Longo, the emotion of Caravaggio, the portraiture of John Singer Sargent, and the nineteenth century documentation of physiognomy and phrenology. Stylistically, I tried to capture moments similar to that of a photograph. This creates a feeling of nostalgia and comfort, juxtaposed against the underlying issues of racism and bigotry. Even though some of the subject matter may not be familiar, my hope is that the viewer will recognize something of his or her own experiences and somehow relate to the works in the series.
Taryn Wells was born in Massachusetts in 1981. She received a B.A. in Studio Art from Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Her work focuses on the topic of race within the confines of American culture, racial classification, and the desire of different races (specifically those of mixed race) to find their place in modern society. Wells currently teaches Advanced Drawing at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.