Ipseity Project highlights ongoing challenges


Megan Fabry

A new exhibit that challenges social and racial issues throughout the world is making its way to the Union for Contemporary Art.

The Ipseity Project is being shown in Omaha September 7 through October 27 and uses the concept of a doppelganger to examine issues of “in/visibility” in contemporary society.

Zoë Charlton is a Baltimore based artist who expressed an interest in art at a young age, but began to seriously invest her time in art in her teenage years. Her earliest drawings were copies of hairstyles in hair care magazines, and worked her way up to life drawings.

Each series is influenced by “different ideas, people, information and objects.”

“I’ve made drawings inspired by family stories, suburbia, the art cannon and other artists’ work, tourist items,” Charlton said.

Charlton said many decisions and factors affect the amount of time she spends on a single work of art. It involves spending time thinking about her ideas, doing research, making sketches and figuring out what materials will benefit the most in expressing her ideas.

While Charlton has done collaborations with many artists, this project she completed alone. For her current project, she based her art on her own physique. She used models similar to her stature and spent time carefully picking her subjects from a diverse cross section in Omaha, San Antonio and Baltimore.

“I have to decide if I have a specific person in mind,” Charlton said. “If I do, I will reach out to that person.  If I need to look for new participants/models, I typically place an ad using online platforms, or, better, word of mouth.”

Charlton uses the nude body as a metaphor to explore the ironies of contemporary social and racial policies. She draws her subjects as isolated figures on a white background  and they are drawn in colorful pieces of clothing. These adornments signify their relationship with the world and the culturally loaded objects they embrace, such as white hoods, suburban housing and sports gear. She then places them against a blank backdrop and goes to work.

“The work evaluates prejudice based on appearances by literally undressing it,” Charlton said. “The particulars of cultural histories are writ large in these naked bodies.”

To get the word out about her project, she posts her exhibitions on social media and the places she exhibits her artwork send information to members and use advertising on a variety of social media platforms.

Charlton does not charge a fee to look at her art at The Union, making it an ideal spot for college students looking to become inspired.