I’ve always been intrigued by the age-old question of nature versus nurture. Which particular aspects of our behavior are genetically pre-wired, and which are learned or acquired? How did I end up becoming who I am today?
Mike Asente is a conceptual artist who explores the blurred edges between nature and nurture. Through the juxtaposition of text with common objects associated with children such as swaddling blankets, bibs, and gender-specific clothing, Asente questions the use of labeling and how it shapes our identities from a young age.
With a touch of dark humor and surprise, his recent body of work involves the use of embroidered words such as “racist," “coward,” “oppressed,” and “doomed” on little girls’ dresses. Are we born into these labels or do the labels shape how we identify ourselves?
ABOVE: Racist (Little Dresses series) (2020)
Sourced toddler dress size 3/4
BELOW: Doomed (Little Dresses series) (2020)
Sourced toddler dress size 4
Each dress is chosen for its shape, color, details; Asente purchases used clothing from thrift stores as he loves that the clothing already has a history. The selection of adjectives and the choice of font unfolds in his studio as he moves pieces around as if puzzle pieces.
Words are meant to contrast, to capture ones attention, to engage the viewer in thinking about how we see and identity each other according to labels and phrases.