Race (Interchangeable Triptych)
3- 24 x 18 Oil on Linen Canvases
This is a social commentary work that I created to put into debate the issue of “race” that is now by many considered to be a social construct. There are predominantly 3 major human race groups on earth, I decided not to use the scientific anthropological terms in this entire description because there are people who may find them to be offensive, instead I’ll resort to saying: “Asian, Black and White”. In another subdivision there’s an extra race that used to fall under the Asian group but since 1962 racial classification made by Carleton S. Coon made it into a separate race which refers to the humankind represented by Australian Aboriginal peoples. I went with the Ethnographic division into races from Meyers Konversationslexikon of 1885-90 listing.
I chose to represent three major race groups on earth with the other notion that the Australian Aboriginal falls under the Asian group as well as the people of India fall under South Asian group, although to be honest I’m not exactly sure if that’s the case – I’m just going by one of the popular classifications. I wanted to create a triptych piece with the three predominant so called “race groups” on earth, not leaving out Australian Aboriginal either but having them as a sub group to South Asian.
Through scientific discovery it became apparent that all humans that ever existed, the lineage of humanity started in Africa. After thousands of years of populating different areas of the planet, the physical features which all early humans shared, became different through the affect of the climate in different areas as well as the diet.
With this triptych of three athletes racing against one another, I’d like to ask the audience viewing this piece, why are there three separate races since we’re all humans that evolved in the same place on earth. Do our physical features make us that much different? Are the differences that we perceive problematic? Why does racism exist when in reality we are one human species (Homo sapiens) that is derived from Africa? Should we celebrate the racial differences or not? Do they make us feel secure or insecure?
All the races share 99.99+% of the same genetic materials which means that division of race is largely subjective, and that the original 3-5 races were also probably subjective descriptions as well. However, there are noticeable physical feature differences.
Through mid 20th century political climate the term “race” became problematic and the United Nations consensus divided humans into over 5000 ethnic groups, opposed to 3 major ones that anthropologists classified. Does the further division make us feel more secure or not about our ethnic backgrounds?
“Article from online:
What is Race? When some people use the “race” they attach a biological meaning, still others use “race” as a socially constructed concept. It is clear that even though race does not have a biological meaning, it does have a social meaning which has been legally constructed.
By . . .”biological race,” I mean the view of race espoused by Judge Tucker, and still popular today, that there exist natural, physical divisions among humans that are hereditary, reflected in morphology, and roughly but correctly captured by terms like Black, White, and Asian. Under this view, one’s ancestors and epidermis ineluctably determine membership in a genetically defined racial group. The connection between human physiognomy and racial status is concrete; in Judge Tucker’s words, every individual’s race has been “stampt” by nature. . . .Despite the prevalent belief in biological races, overwhelming evidence proves that race is not biological. Biological races like Black and White simply do not exist. A newly popular argument among several scholars, is that races are wholly illusory, whether as a biological or social concept. Under this thinking, if there is no natural link between faces and races, then no connection exists.
There are no genetic characteristics possessed by all Blacks but not by non- Blacks; similarly, there is no gene or cluster of genes common to all Whites but not to non-Whites. One’s race is not determined by a single gene or gene cluster, as is, for example, sickle cell anemia. Nor are races marked by important differences in gene frequencies, the rates of appearance of certain gene types. The data compiled by various scientists demonstrates, contrary to popular opinion, that intra-group differences exceed inter-group differences. That is, greater genetic variation exists within the populations typically labeled Black and White than between these populations. This finding refutes the supposition that racial divisions reflect fundamental genetic differences.
Attempts to define racial categories by physical attributes ultimately failed. By 1871, some leading intellectuals had recognized that even using the word “race” “was virtually a confession of ignorance or evil intent.” The genetic studies of the last few decades have only added more nails to the coffin of biological race. Evidence shows that those features usually coded to race, for example, stature, skin color, hair texture, and facial structure, do not correlate strongly with genetic variation.
Social meanings connect our faces to our souls. Race is neither an essence nor an illusion, but rather an ongoing, contradictory, self-reinforcing process subject to the macro forces of social and political struggle and the micro effects of daily decisions. . . Referents of terms like Black, White, Asian, and Latino are social groups, not genetically distinct branches of humankind.”
Source slightly edited: http://blog.world-mysteries.com/science/how-many-major-races-are-there-in-the-world/
The term race is sort of problematic due to the political and social inclination. However in this triptych with the three separate athletes I wanted to show that in today’s world each race, ethnicity or nationality have people who prefer segregation and separation from other groups of people. What segregation does is make people of any differences compete with one another even in a more negative chauvinistic sense than just in capitalism. With capitalism (capitalist countries) in which it’s a free for all depending on a variety of factors such as education, people skills and in some instances secretly even genetics which nobody has control over and I believe is wrong to judge a person for their race/ethnicity/nationality/etc.
While these three athletes are competing, notice that the clothes on them are: Black, Gray, Red, White and Yellow. The three stripes in the background symbolize the three race groups, which also connect the canvases together. The three colors: Black, Yellow and White symbolize the skin. The edges between the three stripes are the only edges in the whole work that I didn’t soften, to symbolize the tension between them. The Gray symbolizes the in-between the median between them and the Red symbolizes the blood that is red in all humans, regardless of any differences. The divisions of Black, Yellow and White stripes are clear which show the clear distinction between them but they are rendered in an organic manner, which symbolizes the human touch and tension between the colors as well as the naturalness of each color as well as the imperfection of any human. They also symbolize how these figures affect the environment around each one of them (The three striped background), being the center focus of each of the panels and bending, pulsating or having a physical affect on space/time itself with their significance on the stripes (time is represented in this piece as the interchange of the panels occurs). I used the three stripes symbolizing three races not in a derogatory sense but for design purposes of this piece, as different groups of people, including races and ethnicities are associated with different colors. However through the colors of the clothes that each athlete wears, they are all connected which points out the things in common opposed to the differences. In terms of the differences in which parts of clothes are which color on each athlete depended on the graphic element of the piece as well as the symbolic meaning of all of them having some commonalities and some differences as well as in the metaphorical meaning of their personalities/cultures, which should all be embraced instead of being criticized. I think that a varied world with a variety of cultures/ideas/personalities is better than an authoritarian society that demands their own one worldview.
Each of these athletes is on a different part or level of the racing track floor for a few reasons: The first reason is that they should be able to pass on another when I interchange the canvases, so it’s more natural to real life sprinting scenario. The second reason is that it makes the triptych more dynamic. The third and final reason is that it shows the original order in which I’ve painted each of these athletes, the first being the Asian athlete, the second being the Black athlete and the third being the White athlete. The reason why I chose to paint them in that order, was due to the difficulty of each, with the first being the most difficult figure to paint, the second the lower level of difficulty and the third being the one which was easiest for me. This is the way I prefer to work, to always tackle the most difficult parts first, then leave the easiest parts for last.
I left the three striped background textured with a fan brush for a reason. If you look closely, there’s a horizontal direction of strokes, which gives an illusion of movement and air, each of these athletes also has a vertical stroke around their figures, which gives an illusion of wind resistance to their bodies as they are in motion.
I chose to do each panel part on a 18 x 24 inch canvas with two concepts in mind. Since this is a triptych, that means it’s composed of three separate panels, if you divide 18 by 3 = 6 which also means 6+6+6 or 666 with the idea that racism is an evil concept, also there are 6 total combinations and if you also make it times three it will be “666” (I realize that 666 has the original historical context regarding Roman emperor Nero, however this number itself became a symbol of the “number of the beast” and of evil, so I use symbols in my work to convey meaning, however I realize that symbols change and may evolve with times, such as with the original “666”). If you divide 24 by 3 = 8, if you turn 8 on its side it’s very similar to the infinity sign which means that racism has been around for as long humans had existed. I hope humanity one day puts an end to it.
I made it into an interchangeable triptych with the notion that there isn’t and cannot be one clear winner, we’re all on this Planet Earth together. Let’s find the commonalities between each other opposed to focus on the differences. I initially created this piece in the time of segregation within USA, to have people realize that despite minor differences, we all have a lot more things in common as a whole as all of humanity.
Something to ponder about.
I don’t mean to be didactic with my explanation of this piece, however, I didn’t want this specific triptych painting to be misinterpreted or to leave the interpretation up to the viewer. This was a specific piece, designed on taking on a relevant and a touchy issue on which I want to be clear of my intentions with it. This piece is a commentary on humanity as a whole.
I put my heart and soul into this work and into its message.
The Dutch masters of the Baroque Golden Age inspired the technique of this painting and I used a limited 6-color palette for this entire piece, which also resonates with the type of palettes the old masters used.
For full size details, please go to: https://www.deviantart.com/landscapist/art/Race-Interchangeable-Triptych-818804612