Exhibit of Myra Greene’s Racial Identity Portraits,”My White Friends,” Now on View at CDS

KJ, Canadaigua, New York, 2007. Photograph by Myra Greene.

KJ, Canadaigua, New York, 2007. Photograph by Myra Greene.

Myra Greene has often used the human body—primarily black and brown ones, often her own—to explore issues of difference, beauty, and memory. In conversations with white friends, she realized that they had very different notions of racial identity than her own; in one pivotal exchange, a friend remarked that he really didn’t think about whiteness. “I left that night wondering about how one could lack consciousness about one’s racial identity. I had never considered this was possible,” says Greene. “But in the end his position made absolute sense. As the dominant part of popular culture, whiteness is fed back to us as the definition of ‘normal’; it’s marketed as the everyday.” Greene’s My White Friends project was born out of these revelations. Scroll down for a slideshow of images, and click here for an interview with Myra Greene.

My White Friends
Exhibition Dates: Monday, March 10–Saturday, May 17, 2014

Artist’s Talk & Book Signing : April 9, 6–9 p.m.
Center for Documentary Studies, Juanita Kreps Gallery
1317 W. Pettigrew St., Durham, North Carolina

The project’s “racial identity portraits” are co-constructions with Greene’s friends that capture the individual characteristics that make them feel decidedly “white.” Greene describes her subjects as being “manicured into a space and provided an opportunity to respond to the idea of being imaged for their race. Some found it amusing; for others, it caused great anxiety.” Greene says that some people see the images as mundane, because at first glance “they appear as something one sees every day. But if you shift your view a bit, they call into question a lot of bigger concerns about how we describe, and then think about, racial identity.” Her goal is thoughtful dialogue. “I want conversations, not categories.”

Myra Greene’s quotes are edited from “Conversation Starter,” an interview with Tate Shaw that appears in the book My White Friends, published by Kehrer Verlag in 2012.

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    One Response to “Exhibit of Myra Greene’s Racial Identity Portraits,”My White Friends,” Now on View at CDS”

    1. Catherine Schaper says:

      I find it interesting that all the photos shown here have some element of greenery/nature in the frame. Though a variety of sizes, ages, and incomes seem to be represented, the bits of greenery end up suburbanizing and therefore homogenizing them a bit for me. That said, I find the project interesting and some of the images quite compelling. I only experienced my own whiteness when I lived in Hawaii for a time and would find myself the only “haole” in a given group. And similarly, I wouldn’t say “disorienting”, but “reorienting” was my experience as a visitor in Thailand where communication failures exacerbated my cultural and racial sense of being a foreigner.

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