I ask all my models if they want to write a bio. Here is the one by PK Ryan
My name is PK Ryan. I was born during the summer of Woodstock and the moon landing. Unfortunately, my early years were not consistent with the optimistic and positive nature of those seminal events.
I was born with albinism, and soon after becoming self-aware I realized that I was different, and not necessarily in a good way. My childhood was punctuated with taunts and ridicule; I was and continue to be called every pejorative name consistent with my appearance (whitey, honky, white bread, milk toast, powder, Q-tip, Casper). This list is far from exhaustive and merely a sampling. On one occasion I was even called "E.T.", which was baffling to me as I could not see what I had in common with a flat-headed, green alien. In one respect, though, the moniker was accurate, because I felt like an alien.
I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, in the 70s, which was a far different environment than the Brooklyn of today. It was rough, and the name-calling was often accompanied by egg-throwing or some other physical menace. There were no hipsters.
At the same time as I endured this unwanted negative attention, some people found me fascinating or even beautiful. Middle-aged women would often stroke my hair and remark that they wished they had hair like mine. Of particular curiosity to me was the fact that many elderly people would come over after Mass on Sunday and rub my head for good luck. (My parents had us attend a largely black and Hispanic church in East New York, Brooklyn, because they liked the Gospel choir and progressive attitude of the place, so I stood out even more.) I could not understand how one could worship a Christian god and yet feel compelled to rub my head for good luck.
These different responses to my albinism led me to become almost obsessed with the concept of perception and how people perceive and react to the same stimuli differently. When encountered and possible, I endeavored to change people's negative perception of me, and albinos in general, while trying not to convey my mission; I feel that people often will not change their views when they feel that is someone else's goal. They have to be led to a new viewpoint that they feel they have come to themselves.
Further to this, I agreed to be a part of Ms. Stephanie Corne's project, and I am thrilled that I did so. Ms. Corne's portraits (and art in general) have the power to change perceptions and illuminate truths, including the lunacy of judging people by the color of their skin (or lack thereof).
With albinos facing prejudice and even death, simply as a result of superficial characteristics, the world needs more efforts like Ms. Corne's.
The preparation of my facemotion portrait shoot of a person with Albinism felt much heavier than I wished it to be. People with albinism being persecuted, killed and dismembered, and graves of albinos dug up and desecrated – all for good luck- may have to do with this internal blight I was feeling. In other places, people with albinism also being ostracized and even killed for exactly the opposite reason, because they are presumed to be cursed and bring bad luck could also be a reason for my depressed resolve to address it in my portrait series... Here in America, Albinos are likely to be bullied chronically, at any age. Everywhere on the map, they can suffer from blindness and skin cancer. Ninety eight percent of albinos die by the age of forty in Africa for reasons which could easily be prevented.
In my artwork, I try to convey of an emotion without the words in the way in order to understand the meaning of the moment.
Our salvation, our only path to live peacefully with “the Other” is by granting him or her the same equal status as a human being, the same right to be alive as ourselves. The invitation I make is by relating to a feeling, an emotion we have felt ourselves we understand that we cannot be threatened by the existence of the others differences. The sameness lies in this finite and sacred state we all are in and we have the freedom to display at any given time we wish. This state is called humanity. Humanity means a conscious understanding that we all feel everything. If we truly grasp that idea, there is a responsibility we all have from there on. This artwork is my way to advocate for what makes us human.
“Thou shall not kill” – Thou shall not kill anyone.
Thank you PK Ryan for participating in the Facemotions portrait message.