As a biracial student in a mostly white school, Nash, a 14-year-old artist in the Boca Raton, Florida studio of Stacey Parrish, was experiencing daily microaggressions from her classmates and teachers. She felt pressure to be quiet, not to disrupt, to be “perfect.” The burden of internalizing her experience was causing her overwhelming anxiety. In the TAB studio, Nash discovered a brave space that empowered her to begin to use her voice. These images and reflections illustrate how Nash developed an artistic concept based on questions about her identity, and generated a series of artworks that reflect her growing understanding and self-awareness.

Nash's collage to help her ideas.
Middle school student sketching out ideas.

I am going to make a digital collage with many different races and different people exploring who we are as a whole. Who am I? What makes me, me? Why are we so different and why is that a bad thing?

Next, I decided to make a drawing from the collage, but I kept getting stuck. There was no real flavor in my composition.

I realized that a lot of the images I chose were images of what I wanted to be, not how I really felt about myself. I was living through how other people saw me and what they would say became my reality. I started looking for images that really resonated with me, instead of how other people perceived me. Through the piece, I could talk about my situation without judgment. Creating this piece cracked me open and revealed who I was at the core.

Middle school pencil drawing that explores ideas of race.

Nash’s Artist Statement:

     Who am I? What race do I identify with? These are questions I asked myself almost daily. I was stuck between finding             myself and pleasing others. Especially in middle school when you are tested daily by friends, classes, and family. Middle         school’s about finding yourself, they say, finding out who you are, what you like, and who you wanna be for the rest of             your life. I read a quote that said, “She’s stuck between who she is, who she wants to be, and who she should be.” My             piece is trying to convey that message that my identity is still being defined each and every day. I am impacted by the        quotes I see, the songs I listen to, and the people I surround myself with. Through my artwork, I tried my best to convey          my identity through recontextualized and redefined images that I’ve taken from Pinterest. I am glad that we got to work        on a piece where appropriation was allowed and encouraged. I originally started working on a composition and was              stuck in a creative block and then miraculously, I woke up in the middle of the night, grabbed a piece of paper, and                started sketching a composition on regular printer paper. I transferred that original rough draft onto Bristol Board for the        final piece. I was thinking of coloring or painting the pencil sketch but I thought it looked best if I left it defined by the              pencil lines and shading. I chose these images because through the simplicity of these quotes, symbols, and different            people, I found that they best reflected me and my personality. I composed the piece so that every image is defined and     the closer you look the more you see. For example, if you take a look at the girl in the middle and look closely right above       her ear it says, “listen.”

Nash is currently a high school junior and Vice President of the Black Student Union. Nash is a thinker, an artist, and a writer. She recently wrote and performed a Tedx Talk about race, ethnicity, and identity: Thinking Outside of the Box to Be Your Authentic Self 

Nash reflects on her time as a middle school artist in a TAB studio: 

This class opened my eyes that I could be myself in that space, and I could be myself in school. Before this experience, I didn’t have that. I didn’t have any place I go to just feel comfortable and confident. This class allowed me to explore what I wanted to explore and what I liked, through art. The level of respect that I had in the studio helped shape me as a person.