Art + Design

Excerpt from Mixed: Portraits of Multiracial Kids

Full disclosure: I have a personal stake in this. For starters, as an artist, I’ve created work exploring personal identity for the better part of two decades. In many ways, I’ve bet my career on the fact that we all have a need to tell our own stories, to define ourselves, and I’ve been fortunate enough to share this work with audiences of all ages all over the world. But this book is something more significant. On March 21, 2009, I became a father. My son, Jack, was born—named after my own father. And in this one moment, my life, and the meaning behind my entire work as an artist, shifted significantly. After two decades making art that questions the very idea of race, that explores the complications and consequences of choosing sides or affiliations (or worse, having them chosen for you), that argues against the concepts of compartmentalization, categorization, and conceptual laziness, my stakes have suddenly been raised.

Photographing each individual kid for this book was like that first summer day, over and over. Once we got past their holiday photo poses, past the strained smiles and attention-getting expressions, my job was essentially the same. Create a relationship between us without adult expectations and without adult barriers. Let them tell me who they are and show me who they are on their terms. And give them the opportunity to define themselves. Give them the opportunity I didn’t have as a child, and an opportunity I want my son to always have.

Kip Fulbeck, professor and artist, lives in Santa Barbara.

Read the full introduction in Mixed. If you’re in Los Angeles, make sure to stop by the Japanese American National Museum to see Kip’s exhibition, which is up until September 26, 2010. You can become part of the exhibition by stamping your unique handprint on the Mixed timeline or by adding your answer to the question “Who are you?” on to the exhibition’s interactive sculpture.

Kip also speaks eloquently about his work in this new video:

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