Identity is a tricky thing. It’s hard to know anymore if we are supposed to proudly declare our differences or attempt to blend them seamlessly into the larger tapestry; be aware of color, gender, ethnicity, or blind to it. The task is made more difficult for the hyphenated among us, those whose self is a mix of disparate enough elements — especially in contrast to the majority — to require a punctuated identity. Labels can mislead as much as reveal. Take Fidalis Buehler, professor of art at BYU. His mother is Micronesian, and he spent his teenage years in Hawaii and other islands in the Pacific, so he frequently is identified in exhibition literature as a “Pacific Island artist.” Artistically, though, he was trained in Utah as much as in Honolulu, and his professional career has been spent almost entirely in the Intermountain West. And he was born in Wisconsin, his father a fourth-generation American from the Midwest, with a family that traces its roots to Bern, Switzerland (hence the surname; the given name — a version of the Latin word for “faithful” — came from a maternal aunt). So, he could equally be considered an American artist. Where does one draw the line? Or insert the hyphen?

“I don’t pretend to say I’m this person of Micronesian culture,” Buehler says. “I just say I’m an American. I come from this American background and I’m definitely entrenched in the culture. But at the same time, I recognize traits and peculiarities that are quite foreign to an American experience.”

 

Read the full profile in the March 2017 edition of 15 Bytes.

Shawn Rossiter

The founder of Artists of Utah and editor of its online magazine, 15 Bytes, Shawn Rossiter has undergraduate degrees in English, French and Italian Literature and studied Comparative Literature in graduate school before pursuing a career in art.