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Alicia McDaniel

Born in Sacramento, CA

Candidate for MA at CCA in San Francisco, CA

“When They Made Me Feel Welcomed, They Told You To Go Home”


The Brown Paper Bag test, established in the early 1900s, was used to segregate People of Color in the United States until the 1970s. If someone’s skin color was lighter than the paper bag, they were admitted into white spaces. When People of Color are born with lighter complexions, a frequent occurrence, they access certain privileges associated with “passing” as white. Artist Alicia McDaniel’s grandmother attempted to pass herself off as white by rejecting her Latinx/Indigenous identity, customs, language and bleaching her skin daily. Her work uses the Paper Bag Test as a point of departure for contemporary instances of colorism and racism that still exist.

McDaniel’s image-making practice is multifaceted and experimental as she works within the realms of installation, painting, sculpture, book making, and video. She creates compositions made from torn, multiple shades of paper bags to represent the tension behind the formulation of racial identity in America. Her work originates within her and her family's’ different experiences with racial profiling, skin privilege, and assimilation in both historical and contemporary instances. McDaniel also re-examines her own personal experiences as a white-“passing” Person of Color.