This exhibition proposes a realm in which these subjects explore worlds of their own choosing, in which they might be mother, martyr, warrior or hybrid. The exhibition is divided into three areas or worlds. The first is configured around the Fall which evokes the biblical story of the Garden of Eden, a realm where the natural and human worlds meet.
The animal-human hybrid figures represent the second world of the exhibition. Hybridity refers to the mingling of species, races or cultures, a crossing of one thing with another. These figures are both abject and powerful, beautiful and repulsive. This uncomfortable ambivalence is meant to provoke a response in the viewer, who must consider the relationship between themselves and other, different subjectivities.
In the third world of the exhibition, the viewer is reminded that the body is real and embedded in race, religion and identity. They offer an intimate depiction of women, who are transformed by the aging process, or whose faces are concealed behind Farsi calligraphy or veils of Belgian lace.
The exhibition design presents three other-worldly or dream-like spaces, connected by metaphorical ‘bridges’ that nonetheless draw attention to the constructedness and tangibility of the exhibition environment. Lorraine O’Grady expresses this conceptual framework of identity bridges:
Because I was raised by West Indian parents in one of the most traditional areas of New England culture, Boston’s Back Bay, my childhood placed me at a distance from wherever I stood and required me to always build a bridge to some other place. One had to be several things at once … both Caribbean and New England, both African American and West Indian, both black and white … and to daily negotiate the differences ….