Studio Art (Graduate)

Frontin(g) by Jamal Thorne

Since the Fall of 2010 my work has addressed Judith Butler’s theories regarding performed identity and how they relate to popular culture, new media, and cultural symbolism. The consistent appearance of collage and image layering within the work is meant to be a reflection of how individuals consume and process material from our environment. Some of these things make a permanent impression on our identities, while others lose relevance and are torn away leaving marks as relics of the past.

With Frontin(g), I have visualized the things we internalize from society, the media, cultural tradition, and authentic experience as a mask, or a front, that is in constant flux. I have personally experienced the mask’s instability as my behavioral patterns are constantly shifting between those of an inner city African-American and a middle-class suburban African-American, depending on whom I am interacting with. For nearly a decade I performed this oscillation between behaviors before comprehending the implications of my actions.

Constant movement between performed identities prompts the inevitable question of “Which identity is authentic?” In my opinion, we are all of the identities we perform and we are things that we internalize. Even if it is only temporary, we become the masks that we wear. Once we have consumed material from our environment visually and intellectually, our identities are influenced and a new mask is generated. Whether the elements consumed and the performed identities are permanent or temporary is only relevant in that they further embody the fluctuating nature of the masks we wear. For me, Frontin(g) acts as an outlet for pending questions about why these masks exist. Who do we change them for and what happens when we are stripped of them completely?