Jasmine Abena Colgan’s life, art and body have become a metaphorical—and literal—subversion of deeply held ideas about race and America.
Born to a father of Irish heritage and a mother with Ghanaian roots, Colgan was diagnosed at age 21 with vitiligo, a progressive, autoimmune condition that causes loss of skin pigmentation.
Since then, more than a quarter of her once-brown complexion has turned white.
“This transformation has become a representation of my complex identity,” she says. “I am not a woman of color, but a woman of colors.”
Colgan, a Master of Fine Arts candidate in interdisciplinary media arts practices, has created a photographic project called “Tough Skin,” depicting Americans with vitiligo, which received widespread media coverage around the world.
She named the project in honor of her late grandmother, an Irish Catholic, farm-raised Nebraskan who told her, “You gotta have tough skin.”