Sam Messer
Abstract portrait of a man smoking a cigarette seated next to a keyboard

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Collection of the artist

I wanted to work on a small scale. I am interested in how scale is felt physically and psychologically through the viewer’s body and mind. I chose the medium of beeswax for its visceral presence. Because it has some similar qualities to skin, such as its color and texture, it can be felt through the viewer’s own body. This portrait deals with being biracial. Some of the questions I asked myself while creating this sculpture were: How does the way we look change our interaction in everyday life? How should I identify my race? Am I allowed to identify as Asian? Should I merely look at race as a social construct? My portraits express an array of emotions including sadness, anger, frustration, exhaustion, and at the same time a state of contemplation. I am currently dealing with issues of race and identity. Coming from a biracial heritage with an Asian mother and Caucasian father, I am interested in how the way we appear affects our self-concept. I am exploring why races tend to cling to others who share similar features. Is it biological, or sociological? Perhaps it is a combination of many different influences. I am expressing my ideas through figurative sculpture by depicting a likeness of myself and the other. To depict my ideas I often work in series. After the initial sculpture of a raced individual, I change the features of that person’s race, so that someone who has “African American” features in one sculpture will have “white” features in another. Overall my sculptures explore issues of how our identities are socially constructed.