Our next discussion in Visual Literacy was in the realm of identity: How do we get our identity? Can we change it? What are the pros and cons of identity? In our search for the answers we looked at the works of several artists, namely Cindy Nikki S. Lee, Cindy Sherman and Anthony Goicolea.
Nikki S. Lee gave us insight into the nature and origin of our identity. With her “Project” series (i.e. the “Yuppie Project,” “Hip-Hop Project” and the like), Lee proves that identity is something one is born with and/or raised into. For example: in her “Hispanic Project,” Lee assimilated herself into Hispanic surroundings, clothing, make-up, behavior, etc. Yet even with this acting and effort, at the end of the day, one can easily see that Lee is a Korean woman dressed as a chica. From this, we can assume that identity is at least partly due to our origin.
Next, we can learn from Cindy Sherman whether it’s possible to change our identity. Sherman, like Lee, uses her photographs to capture her own self with various identities. Whether an unnamed woman of her Untitled Film Stills series or a rendition a 16th century noble, Cindy makes a commentary on change of identity. In some of her photos, it is obvious that she is wearing make-up and costume or that she is not who she says she is. From this I read: no matter how you dress, act, or appear, you can’t fully convince others, and certainly not yourself, of your new “identity.”
Finally, we looked at the works of Anthony Goicolea, another photographer. Goicolea’s study of identity takes us into age as identity, as he captures himself in “boyhood.” Youth is often associated with freedom, blitheness, health, etc. But Goicolea seems to be reminding us with his violent, un-innocent images of boyish activity (really, himself photographed multiple times) that adolescence is not as good as we remember it being.
I, too, photographed myself with another identity that I have never really had but maybe secretly wanted: to be a party girl. These photos of me scantily clad will not be published here, because I hold to my true identity: prudish homebody. I guess you could say, to revert back to one’s childhood, or to try and be someone we are not isn’t all its cooked up to be. We are who we are because we were made this way by Someone who knows better than us. The thing we can change is whether or not we choose to we live that innate identity to its full potential.