Slaves to Our Masks: Octoroon Exhibition

The modern-day equivalent to “passing”

Radical Re-imaginings: Our Racialized Past, Present, and Futures” is an exhibition in association with Woolly Mammoth’s production of An Octoroon by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. Artists were to respond “to the ways in which America’s racialized past continues to inform our present moment.” An Octoroon is an Obie-winning riff on a 19th-century melodrama that helped shape the debate around the abolition of slavery — it’s a provocative challenge to the racial pigeonholing of 1859 and today.

With all the craziness going down today, from Donald Trump’s bigoted primary election campaign to the Black Lives Matter movement in response to the systematic oppression of black lives, An Octoroon and the Radical Re-imaginings exhibit couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time.

Artist Statement

After reflecting on the submission guidelines I came to the conclusion: We are slaves to the masks we wear for society. Masks are our modern day equivalent to “passing”—serving as a form of self-preservation or protection for social acceptance.

A common theme for all people is the desire to hide our true selves from society. The world has a far reaching racialized past, which is why my work doesn’t depict a specific race through skin tone. It’s time to embrace our individuality and live unapologetically! We are coming into an age where we let our true selves shine.

My work depicts Diversity, Inclusion and Individuality to stimulate deeper self reflection to foster self acceptance and love for our fellow humans. We are all seeking something from life and our heritage shouldn’t hinder our paths. I aim to bring audiences with differing backgrounds together to promote more acceptance and inclusion of varying races, ethnicities, and genders.