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California College of the Arts MFA Thesis Showcase 

Minnesota Street Project, San Francisco, CA

The first component of my installation here, is titled What Divides Us which is an installation that invites the viewer to participate in what was known as the Brown Door test. On the pedestal next to the free standing door are letterpress printed instructions that explain how to participate in this test and they read as follows:

 

Place your left or right hand on the freestanding, brown door. If your skin color is lighter than the shade of brown on the door, you may open and pass through the door. If you are the same color as or darker than the door, you may not pass.

 

This was the first time that I have worked this way- where I am asking people to engage with or even to relive this traumatic experience. It is also a more literal approach in contrast to my mural component which I have entitled The Brown Paper Bag Test.

 

As the name implies, this piece is made almost entirely from brown paper bags to reference the Brown Paper Bag Test which was established in the early 1900s and just like the Brown door test, it was used as a systematic tactic of segregation created and utilized within communities of color.

 

It was common for many White Passing or lighter skinned people of color to purposefully pass themselves off as White in an effort to escape discrimination, obtain resources, opportunity, and safety. My own grandmother attempted to pass herself off as White by rejecting her own Latino/ Indigenous identity, customs, language, and started bleaching her skin daily at the age of 19. There are stories of her passed down by relatives explaining that she participated in the Brown Paper Bag test as a young adult and failed. Which is how I know about these tragic events.

 

With the exception of the church door I found, everything is almost entirely made by hand. Each paper bag used to create this mural was treated in a violent manner as the bags have been shredded, stained, cut, and crumpled. After dismantling the form of each bag, I mended them back together as one piece where the bags have been elevated to a status of painting.

What Divides Us (Take away)