Sara Ishii

In her seminal text Borderlands/La Frontera, queer Chicana feminist Gloria Anzaldúa describes "nepantla" as a challenging place. A Náhuatl word for "in-between space," it "is very awkward, uncomfortable and frustrating to be in that Nepantla because you are in the midst of transformation" (276). Anzaldúa's nepantla theory resonates with my identity struggles as a biracial woman; I feel cannot fully claim both races because I struggle against other's expectations of what my identity can and cannot be. As a visual artist, I work to understand my experiences, informed by gender and race, through imagery. Each painting consists of three main parts-background, cocoon, and body part-that temporally signify my struggle with other's questions or comments regarding my biracial identity. The patterned background represents the historical setting in which these questions and my existence is embedded. Set against the pattern is a cocoon that relates to questions and comments I've received that seek to authenticate or validate my claim that I am half Japanese American. The cocoon, which most closely connects with Anzaldúa's nepantla theory, relates to feelings of being trapped within the question's expectations and takes on the appearance of an object associated with the comment or question. Based on the nature of the remark, certain associated body parts emerge from the cocoon, which symbolize the future. In these moments, I can move through nepantla and create my own concept of identity that is not hindered by Western expectations of Japanese identity.

Sara Ishii was born in 1982 in Mission Viejo, California. She lives and works in Denton, Texas. She received her doctorate in Multicultural Women's and Gender Studies from Texas Woman's University and holds an M.A. in Feminist, Gender, and Women's Studies from York University and a M.F.A. in Art and Technology from the University of Texas at Dallas. Her art and scholarship intertwine research interests in Anzaldúan theorizing, feminist theory, and social justice in contemporary art. Currently, she is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Visual Arts Department at Texas Woman's University.

IG: Sara Ishii