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I Hate the Name Kenneth

Ken Aptekar (American, b. 1950)

I Hate the Name Kenneth, 1996

  • Oil on wood with sandblasted glass and bolts
  • 69 x 120 7/8 x 3 in. (175.3 x 307.1 x 7.6 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Purchase: Barbara S. Horowitz, Howard E. Rachofsky, Ruth M. and Stephen Durschlag, Marcia May, J.W. Heller Foundation, Michael L. Rosenberg, Helga and Samuel Feldman, Caroline B. Michahelles and Robert G. Pollock gifts, and Fine Arts Acquisitions Committe, 1997-26a-h

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MIXED IDENTITIES

Finding a comfortable balance between ethnic identity and American culture is a struggle for many immigrants and their descendents. Each individual approaches the challenge in his or her own way. Social or economic pressure to be less "Jewish" or less "Asian" or less "Hispanic" can be strong, and efforts to "pass" as completely "American" are common. On the other end of the spectrum, some choose to remain largely isolated from American culture so as not to risk losing any of their ethnic identity. Most people fall somewhere in between.

What it means to be American remains an open question. The "melting pot" is no longer the favored analogy. It is not clear that there is even such a thing as a singular American culture. As our society embraces greater diversity, multiple expressions of American culture exist simultaneously. Today, metaphors like "salad bowl" and "mosaic" are sometimes used to describe the American social landscape. But any such analogy still serves to simplify an inherently complex situation.