Natalie SelfDefining one’s identity, one’s true identity, is a monumental task. Still I think it’s the crucial quest of art. At least for me it has been. As a Muslim woman of color, I’m far from the majority in my small Southwestern town. What is the Muslim part of my identity? The color? The American part? The female part? How much of those things is me, and how much of them is created outside of me, imposed on me, soaked up by my footsteps, whether intentionally or unintentionally? How much of my identity in each of these facets is defined by what I truly am, and how much is defined by how I view myself, and how much is defined by how others view me? In short, who am I? And how will I know? My first exhibits are an effort to seek, combine and share pieces that have helped me try to answer these questions. When I think of becoming an adult, a woman, I wonder what it means. How do all these pieces fit together? What do I show the world, and what do I hide? These exhibits are my quest for that reality, and my joy in pondering the questions. I think they’re so purely enjoyable because they’re unanswerable, but it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t endeavor to try. In attempting to define the different facets of my identity, in examining it, I am sure that I change it in ways big and small. Who would I be if I didn’t stop to look to see who I was becoming? And further and further down the rabbit hole the questions spiral. I believe it is both human nature and perfect luxury to search for ourselves, and I think that search must take place in societal frameworks, for we are only who we are in relation to others. So I look from different lenses and through different veils. Can I separate them? Can I ever peel away my own cultural identity enough to look at it from the outside, look at the world without it?


Natalie Youssef