Second Place

Self Portrait 1999-2020

by Zaya Kuroda-Grauer
Somerset, NJ United States
Video: Film

Vision Statement

I realized that because of who I am, I have a lot of different priorities and focuses than other people and artists. What I think is important may not be important to others because I am impacted differently in this world because of the body I was born into. Being born American, as an African American Japanese and Caucasian multiracial woman, has enabled me to see the world very differently growing up, but it also has led me to be witness and directly experience cruelty. I think its important to know that I identify as female. I identify as white, black, and Japanese and always have. I also identify as an artist, a painter specifically. I am not a female artist. I am not a Japanese or black artist. I am just an artist.

I grew up in New Jersey and grew up in the North. I never thought of America as a north or a south (unless it was history related) until I went to Georgia and Alabama. Those states are very red and very racist and a stark difference from where I grew up. Racism is everywhere, but in some places, it almost feels tangible. It is interesting how I was teased for not being black enough in grade school and once I went down south, the only thing I was, was a n****r. People where I grew up are used to biracial and multiracial individuals. They are used to the freckled toffee colored babies. That’s how they primarily see me where I am from… only they think I am part Chinese, since that’s the only Asian ethnicity that exists apparently. People in the south only see my blackness. They can’t recognize any other feature on me other than the color of my skin. Maybe that is due to the south still being segregated. Maybe it is due to people not growing up in a melting pot. I want to uncover the answers one day.

This work is a visual of what it’s like for me to exist with these labels. I’ve come to accept them as a part of human nature, and I know that they do not define me, but they used to hurt and impact me greatly, and sometimes still do. Every day, I make a conscious decision of whether or not I choose to let them affect me.