Morgan DeLuna: Phenotype
In a time of increasingly divisive identity politics, San Diego-based artist Morgan DeLuna’s positive and inclusive take on diversity is wonderfully refreshing. During her childhood in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, Morgan was often asked about her heritage (for the record, she describes herself as Jewish, Norwegian, and Lebanese). She realized fairly early on that these questions were often loaded with the subtext that she did not appear to belong in the largely Scandinavian-looking community. As an adult, Morgan wanted to explore the links between her heritage, appearance, and identity in a systematic and scientific way, researching family photos and physical characteristics of dominant and recessive genes in her own genetic make-up. The results are transformative self-portraits in which she imagines other versions of herself, wondering how her life might have been different had she looked different, while still realizing that each of these versions are a part of the whole that makes her unique.
You can see Morgan’s work from another series called We Walk Tall—which was awarded honorable mention for the Special Edition of the 11th Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Women Seen By Women—at the 5th Biennial of Fine Art & Documentary Photography juried group exhibition in Barcelona in October.
Morgan DeLuna was born and raised in the Twin Cities, Minnesota and relocated to Southern California in 2004. Growing up in a family of ethnic and religious diversity DeLuna’s interest in humanity, specifically our similarities regardless of our differences, started early on. She explored these ideas throughout her adolescence and early adulthood via visual and performing arts. In 2013 DeLuna began studying digital photography finding that the mediums ability to produce a perception of reality spoke better to what she was looking to express. For the majority of her work DeLuna focuses on the relationship between appearance and identity; how we see and present ourselves and how others receive us.
“I create work that I feel is personal and yet universal in theme. I am not solely seeking to express my own thoughts and ideas; I want to encourage and invite the viewers to find a meaning that is personal to them and create conversations.”
– Morgan DeLuna
Phenotype is a series of self-portraits that began as an exploration into my diverse genetic heritage. I approached the process by referencing ancestral photos, my ethnic heritage, and researching scientific lists of recessive and dominant genes. Through the application of make-up, wigs, and Photoshop I altered my appearance again and again, each time with different combinations of attributes. The process of reimagining my appearance created an altered sense of identity, some being pleasant and some unpleasant. During the transforming, photographing, and editing of this work more questions about self arose: “Who is this woman?”, “Based on her appearance, how is her life different from mine?”, and “What ethnic group does she identify with?” The deep connection between our appearance, heritage, and identity emerged as the overlying theme for this body of work. – Morgan DeLuna
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