Samantha Wall's Drawings Explore the Simultaneous Invisibility and Hypervisibility That Women of Color Experience

Some of the most striking elements of "See Me See You" are the things that aren’t there.

In a series of graphite drawings of women of color, Wall renders her subjects' eyes, nose and lips—the features that most often telegraph race—in photorealistic detail. They jump from the paper, perfectly rendered, while the rest of the figure disappears into the whiteness of the background, into the whiteness of the world.

Wall, who is of Korean descent, brings forward the things that we use to categorize each other, leaving the essential nature of each woman to our imaginations or assumptions. She wanted to make a statement about the simultaneous invisibility and hypervisiblity that women of color experience on a daily basis: "It affects all of my interpersonal relationships. It affects my work. Sometimes I feel like it's difficult to talk about it."

In another series as part of the solo exhibition, Wall uses her own body as the subject of monochromatic life-size portraits. She draws herself from head to toe using water and India ink on translucent sheets of Dura-Lar film. When the black ink hits the surface of the water, it meanders into alluvial networks so astonishing the figures look as if they could have only been created by an act of nature.

(courtesy of Laura Russo Gallery) (courtesy of Laura Russo Gallery)

Even though she is the model, Wall is clear that these are not self-portraits. "I become an archetype, a stand-in," she says. "The bodies I see represented in galleries and in museums don't look like me. I'm re-creating the idea of what a universal body can look like."

The series was made during a short period during which Wall was dealing with great loss.

"That work is sitting so close to my grief that it's hard to give it words," she says. "Making it is a way of recording."

The scale of the pieces, all titled "Undercurrent," is representative of the enormity of that task, but the figures themselves appear strong and steadfast. "I feel like I've lost too much already," says Wall. "At least within my work I have the power to prevent that from happening."

Wall's images have a certainty to them that is, perhaps, born of her loss.

"It's causing me to hold on tighter to the things I do have control over—my body my voice, my agency—trying to find a way to bring them to the forefront." JENNIFER RABIN.

SEE IT: See Me See You is at Laura Russo Gallery, 805 NW 21st Ave. Through Oct. 1.

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