In Between: Biracial themes in Art

Artist: Adrian Piper

“Adrian Margaret Smith Piper (b. 1948) is a first-generation Conceptual artist and analytic philosopher. She attended the New Lincoln School throughout grammar school and high school, and the Art Students’ League during high school. She began exhibiting her artwork internationally at the age of twenty, and graduated from the School of Visual Arts in 1969. While continuing to produce and exhibit her artwork, she received a B.A. in Philosophy with a minor in Medieval and Renaissance Musicology from the City College of New York in 1974 and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Harvard University in 1981 under the supervision of John Rawls; and studied Kant and Hegel with Dieter Henrich at the University of Heidelberg in 1977-1978. Her formal education lasted a total of 27 years.” 1


(1988; video installation)
This video installation by Adrian Piper is a favorite of mine. It is about being Black and having to explain that to people. Many people found this to be very controversial. As a biracial woman, I very much so empathized  with Piper’s illustration of the difficulties of being a multiracial person.
Vanilla Nightmares #13
(1986; charcoal & oil crayon drawing on newsprint, 22 x 13.75″)
“Und wenn nun?” translates to “And what if,” and it is a drawing on pages of the New York Times. This piece fits into my exhibit because it illustrates the difference between a white and black identity. The articles in the newspaper also help to reiterate that point.
Self-Portrait Exaggerating My Negroid Features
(1981; pencil on paper, 20.3 x 25.4 cm). Collection Eileen Harris Norton
This piece is relavent because in it, Piper draws herself in a way that exaggerates her Black facial features. I find this piece interesting because Piper often tells storys about how people question her Black identity, and this piece shows that.

Artist: Kip Fulbeck

Kip Fulbeck is an American artist, slam poet and filmmaker. He is the author of Permanence: Tattoo Portraits; Part Asian, 100% Hapa; Paper Bullets: A Fictional Autobiography; and the recently released Mixed: Portraits of Multiracial Kids, as well as the director of a dozen short films including Banana Split and Lilo & Me.

Kip has been featured on CNN, MTV, The TODAY Show, and PBS, and has performed and exhibited in over 20 countries. He speaks nationwide on identity, multiraciality and pop culture — mixing together spoken word, stand-up comedy, political activism and personal stories.

A challenging and inspirational teacher, Kip is a professor of Art at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he is the recipient of the university’s Distinguished Teaching Award. He is also an avid surfer, guitar player, motorcycle rider, ocean lifeguard, and pug enthusiast. A complete overachiever despite being only half Chinese, he is also a world-ranked Masters swimmer.” 1

These images are from The Hapa Project.

“Once a derogatory label derived from the Hawaiian word for “half,” Hapa has since been embraced as a term of pride by many whose mixed racial heritage includes Asian or Pacific Island descent. Kip Fulbeck began The Hapa Project as a forum for Hapas to answer the question “What are you?” in their own words and be pictured in simple head-on portraits.  Traveling throughout the country, he photographed over 1200 people from all walks of life – from babies to adults, construction workers to rock stars, gangbangers to pro surfers, schoolteachers to porn stars, engineers to comic book artists. The project now manifests as a book, traveling photographic exhibition, and online community.”2
ha•pa (hä’pä) adj. 1. Slang. of mixed ethnic heritage with partial roots in Asian and/or Pacific Islander ancestry. n. 2. Slang. a person of such ancestry. [der./Hawaiian: hapa haole. (half white)]
The Hapa Project
The project way started in 2001 and was photographed all over the country.


I enjoy these portraits because they are very simple but effective in illustrating the different ways that biracial persons see themselves. I also like how the artist included statements from the people in the photographs.

Artist: Tony Gleaton

Tony Gleaton was born in 1948 in Detroit, the youngest  son of a elementary school teacher and a police officer. In 1959 his family moved to California where he lived till joining the Marine Corps in 1967 at the age of 19.  After completing a tour of duty in Vietnam he returned to California and a undergraduate admission to UCLA.   Becoming interested in photography in 1974 he pursued the interest on his own, eventually traveling to New York where he worked as a photographic assistant and various other jobs as he aspired to become a fashion photographer.  In 1980 he left New York,  hitchhiking  throughout the  American West doing odd jobs and photographing Cowboys. Finally concentrating on Native American ranch hands and Blacks Rodeo riders.   He stopped in Texas where he was befriended by a group of Black Rodeo performers. Those times in Texas, Colorado, Nevada, Idaho, Kansas and Colorado eventually  formed the core of his COWBOYS: Reconstructing an American Myth.  A series of Photos and portraits of African-, Native-,  Mexican and Euro-American Cowboys.”1

Artist Statement: “I love ‘the other’.  I define “the other” as those people who are separated from any dominant cultural group.  My subjects differ from project to project yet there is this common theme.  In revealing these others I reveal us all. My work examines our common elements and the disparities, which in making us different, also binds us together in the human condition. These photographs are metaphors for the state of grace which lies within us all.

The photographs which I create are as much an effort to define my own life, with its heritage encompassing Africa and Europe, as it is an endeavor to throw open the discourse on the broader aspects of “mestizaje” … the “assimilation” of Asians, Africans and Europeans with indigenous Americans.

The images I produce, most often, are ones in which people directly and openly look into the camera, yet the most important aspect of these portraits is the giving a narrative voice by visual means to people deemed invisible by the greater part of society and in doing so  deliberately crafting an `alternative iconography’ of what beauty and family and love and goodness might stand for, one that is inclusive not exclusive.” 2



Africa’s Legacy in Mexico, Mexico c. 1989
For more images:
Africa’s Legacy in Central America, c. 1992 – 1996
For more images:
These images from Tony Gleaton’s travels are very enlightening. I like that they provide a historical look at the influence on slave trade in these areas. These images show also how both cultures had to assimilate to to the other. For example, the hair of some of the persons is certainly typically black hair. Also, the Hispanic culture is still intact. I think that these images illustrate how one can be 100% of each of their ethnic backgrounds.

About sarahstates

My name is Sarah States. I like brightly colored things. And my passions are art making and appreciating, couchsurfing, finding new cures for my ever-present wanderlust, CATAWAMPUS, being a burner and the multitude of things that occupy my time.
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2 Responses to In Between: Biracial themes in Art

  1. alexlegris says:

    Hey! Great post! I really enjoyed the photographs in this picture, they were really mind opening! I think the most important part of these pieces are not the photos themselves, but the captions that go with each of them.

  2. josh556 says:

    A bunch of very different rays of photo’s of different parts of everyday life that made looking over each one very interesting. loved how you explained it all and all the pictures were amazing! keep up the good work!

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