For the second show of its inaugural season, Safe-T-Gallery presents "Half-Asian" by Benjamin Sloat and Steve Aishman, an exploration of mutable identity.
     How do men and women who are personal bridges between formerly disparate groups of peoples represent themselves, especially in an increasingly ethnically-conscious America? Can you change how Asian or how European or African you look by changing the backdrop of a photograph, or your accessories, hairstyle -- or state of mind? Sloat and Aishman, both of half-Asian descent themselves, spent seven months photographing more than 100 half-Asian people against three different, but neutral backdrops, giving their subjects a chance to project themselves as more Asian, more Western, or neutrally as in a passport photo.
     "It's more a performance project than a photography piece," Aishman told the Boston Herald. "People would be dressing up not to express themselves, but their heritage," said Sloat, citing a woman who used her mother's clothes and jewelry to augment her Asianness and others who "choose stereotypes because they don't know how to be one or the other." "This project has a purpose that stretches beyond race and identity," writes Sloat. "It also relates to anyone who feels that they are existing between two ways of life." "I hope," says Aishman, "the photographs reveal to viewers the cultural clues they look for in an image in order to categorize a person into one community or another."
      "Half-Asian " comes to Safe-T-Gallery from the Dreams of Freedom Museum in Boston where it was on view this summer. Parts of the show have been seen at Chambers Fine Art in Chelsea and at The Gallery@Green St. in Boston, where Aishman and Sloat set up a "1/2 Asian Portrait Studio," allowing visitors a chance to deconstruct their identities and be photographed in more Asian or more Western guise. New Yorkers who are themselves half-Asian can become part of this series during several portrait sessions to be held at the Safe-T-Gallery during the run of the show.