"I began this project because I recognized that I was part of a underrepresented group of people," artist Samantha Wall explained in an email to HuffPost. "It’s difficult to talk about multiraciality with individuals who can’t understand our perspective. It’s not as simple as being part this and part that, our identities can’t be so easily divided. But art is a language that lends itself to communicating experiences too difficult to comprehend through words alone."
For her project "Indivisible," Wall explores the meaning of multiracial identities in Korea and the United States through a series of black-and-white portraits. The images show models staring fearlessly at the viewer, flashing a smile, a laugh and sometimes even a grimace. Wall's charcoal and ink illustrations attempt to convey, as she notes, a feeling that words cannot. "Through this work I am exposing the plurality of emotions that sculpt human subjectivity," she writes on her website. "The drawings of these women are portals into the human psyche, a place where emotions call out and perceived racial boundaries dissolve."
To create her works, Wall stages photography sessions, engaging each individual model in conversations that vary from person to person while she snaps their portraits. Some conversations are more broad and political, others are intimate and personal, but all are meant to reveal the shared experience of being a multiracial woman. Instead of drawing her subjects live, she utilizes photography as a means of recording the myriad expressions produced during a one or two hour conversation. She then combs through hundreds of digital photos, looking for one that best captures an exchange.
"The images provide a structure for my drawing yet it is the interpersonal connection made during the photo shoot that allows me to translate the emotional memories of our shared experiences onto paper," she states. "There is no other way for me to create these portraits. Each portrait is more than just a likeness, it communicates a shared subjectivity and what makes these women unique as individuals."
"Photographs can capture something my eyes can’t detect," she adds, "facial expressions that are subtle and swift."
South Korea-born, Portland, Oregon-based Wall transforms the selected photographs into her minimal illustrations, images that leave naked parts of the women's faces, torsos and hands in an attempt to focus the viewer's eyes on the specific idiosyncrasies she's chosen to highlight. There is no color added to her drawings, so any reference to skin tone is notably absent. For her subjects, Wall hopes that "Indivisible" allows the women to feel a little less alone during their time together. For herself, she recognizes that this project provides an opportunity for the artist to engage in difficult conversations about race.
"Multiracial individuals must navigate between cultural histories and social boundaries while our very existence questions, and consequently threatens, the integrity of those boundaries," she concluded. "I think that’s a great thing but it’s also an experience that can be alienating and frightening."