Samantha Wall's Boren Banner Series at the Frye Art Museum

Gallery artist Samantha Wall's Boren Banner Series on view at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, Washington.


Portland artist Samantha Wall (born 1977, Seoul) draws fluidly upon mythology and speculative fiction to depict variations on a serpent woman. In Western storytelling traditions, this figure is often portrayed as grotesque and menacing, but in Korean lore the goddess Eopsin takes the form of a black snake who protects the home. Wall’s drawings reference Eopsin, who was exiled to the ocean in a box, and Anyanwu, the shape-shifting healer in Octavia E. Butler’s novel Wild Seed. Here, the serpent woman’s tangled limbs and flowing hair defy human bodily limitations and push against the frame’s confining borders, presenting femininity as a powerful yet vulnerable state of being.


To create her drawings and the accompanying Boren Banner artwork on the museum’s facade, Wall uses intricate hand-cut stencils and meticulously layers sprayed ink with conté crayon. The resulting figures are composites of the artist and others, most often biracial women. Informed by Wall’s perspective as a Black Korean immigrant in the United States, the multidimensional compositions trouble the exoticization of those who are perceived as “other” and embrace the complexity of transcultural identity.