Human Interest
Audio Guide Playlist

Listen to commentary by artists and scholars on selected works in Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection, including Thelma Golden, K8 Hardy, Byron Kim, Deana Lawson, and Joan Semmel.

Alison Saar: This is Alison Saar. I'm the artist that created Skin/Deep in 1993.

Generally, I use ceiling tin or the pressed metal tin to clad my sculptures. It's always been a material that I saw as a skin. In this case, it has been flayed off of the figures. When I usually use it on figures, it also feels like an armor. The material itself being metal has a sort of protective quality. I think this piece in particular, where it has been taken off of the figure and nailed on to the wall, it talks about the vulnerability, and the vulnerability of skin at the same time.

When I made this piece, I think I was pregnant with my second child, and it became a point where I just couldn't watch the news. We had the Rodney King beatings. Then there was a young man from Brooklyn, Christopher Wilson, who had gone down to Tampa and had been abducted and doused with gasoline and set afire. It seemed every time I turned on the news, it was open season on black males. It was a frightening time, I think, having a son, and just seeing the way the world was responding to people of color.

That's what really got me doing these pieces. I think, in general, my work really wants to not only give dignity to the figures that I create, but also strength. I think that this is the first piece I've done that really was a straight out victim and vulnerable.

I think part of that was a really angry response, and actually a really frightened response to the news that was being broadcasted nightly on our television sets. Sadly, it's still as apropos twenty years later. I think it's interesting that now with access to public media, that a lot of these things that had been going on for [laughs] centuries, basically, are more visible.

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