Christiane Dolores—The Book of White People

About Vulnerability 1/3

September 6 - December 18, 2019
Residency: October 22-23, 2019
Assembly: Wednesday, October 23, 2019, 10:15-11:15 a.m.
Reception: Wednesday, October 23, 2019, 4:00 - 7:00 p.m.

The Book of White People, by multidisciplinary artist Christiane Dolores, is a rumination on whiteness and how that affects people of color. Dolores’ paintings, assemblages, text-based works and installation unpacks this sensitive topic with directness, humor and an invitation for viewer participation.



 

Christiane Dolores—The Book of White People
 
 
If I was a white artist using low-brow materials I would be called a genius.[1]
Christiane Dolores, 2019
 
At the heart of my work is a humanistic empathy that questions our inability to coexist.[2]
Christiane Dolores, 2019
 
Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper or more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path. I know this is hard to believe, especially when we’ve spent our lives thinking that vulnerability and weakness are synonymous, but it’s true. I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. With that definition in mind, let’s think about love.[3]
Brené Brown, Daring Greatly, 2012
 
 
Christian Dolores—The Book of White People is the first show in the About Vulnerability exhibition series. The Book of White People confronts viewers with a rumination on whiteness and how it affects people of color. Dolores’ paintings, assemblages and installation unpack this sensitive topic with directness, humor and an invitation for viewer participation. For many of us in the Cambridge School of Weston community and beyond, the topic of whiteness might feel challenging, or it might trigger feelings of uncertainty that risk emotional exposure. We embrace these feelings of discomfort and uncertainty to do work that fosters a more equitable and supportive community.
 
Today, the cultural conversation about whiteness is reaching a crucial apogee and is no longer confined to Native American, African American, Asian American, Latinx and other historically oppressed group conversations. It has become imperative to address white privilege, which up until recently has largely been ignorant of itself. For the privileged, systemic cultural racism often remains misidentified or unnoticed. Learning to see the systems that foster racism and oppression requires privileged individuals to remove their blinders. One challenge for America’s white population has been empathizing with America’s black experience. The Book of White People is a collection of revelations that bears witness to this uniquely American situation. About her work, Dolores states, “I think of what I do as social-cultural anthropology, employing the ethnographic technique by culling audio, text and images to create a record of our struggle to be human,” Dolores notes. “My textual, visual, musical work responds to burgeoning questions about human behavior and inhuman cruelty.”[4]
 
Artist, storyteller, objectmaker, soundscaper, and cultural provocateur, Christiane Dolores describes her multidisciplinary practice as being “rooted in responding to compelling questions about cultural definitions, the root of hatred, cognitive dissonance, binary systems, and social conflicts of ‘Us versus Them.’”[5] Dolores Wall of Apologies, for example, presents a collection of common statements of denial about being “racist.” The work asks its audiences, “How can we make real progress when most cross-racial conversations about racism result in a wall of White denial and regret, rather than acknowledgement of responsibility?” Wall of Apologies, which hangs on clothespins, suggests to white audiences that in order to move to the next level of conversation the wall needs to be aired out and dried of its tears.
 
First generation Afro-Deutsch American, Dolores (b. 1966) lives and works in Pittsburgh, PA. Both of her parents were “creatives," she says: "I grew up around a lot of creative people, and I grew up thinking of music and poetry and drawing and painting and sewing as interchangeable.[6]” Dolores attended Carnegie Mellon University for two inconsecutive semesters and studied in Switzerland for 6 months, but left college to pursue her own multi-platform interests. Dolores has received numerous grants and awards for her playwriting, exhibitions, musical recordings, and event planning. Dolores’ multi-media creativity takes on many different forms—any form that suits a particular topic or idea.
 
The individual work in The Book of White People can be best understood as distilled subjects and iconic portrayals. For example, Dolores uses “low-brow materials to engage in high-brow concepts that reflect the commodification of black culture through white culture.[7] Dolores concept, as she points out, exposes “Colonial America’swant of African slaves because they were strong, while simultaneously promoting that they are ‘inferior and lazy’…eventually using this imagery on countless products.”[8]
 
In addition to the exhibition in the Thompson Gallery, Dolores will create an exhibition in the school’s “Installation Space” gallery during her artist’s residency in late October. Her installation, also called “The Book of White People,” will invite the community to reflect on “Whiteness” and add to “The Book,” which will be set atop a pedestal surrounded by eggshells. “To participate, contributors will have to literally walk on eggshells to get to the book,”[9] Dolores says. Dolores’ work is about engaging in frank conversations, but she also says, “I think it is important to call out things; it’s equally important to call in thingsI need you to have a one-on-one human conversation with me. People make mistakes and people need room to grow. We are a human family. I think it is important to recognize the human family and celebrate it.”[10]
 
Dolores’s work is powerful but approachable. It pulls back the curtain for us and reveals a gift of humanity for anyone who is open enough to see it. The Book of White People to some people will feel like an indictment, but it is so much more than that; it is a rich opportunity for students and the community at large to not only reflect on privilege, but also to push our genuine commitment to fighting injustice to the next level.
 
Dolores asks us all: What is it to be human? Are you ready to be vulnerable?
 
Visitors are invited to wonder and to ask questions about the relationship between the objects on display, the materials used to make them, and the titles—provided in the checklist booklets found below—that situate the context for each work. Dolores’ combination of ideas, images and things raise questions for white viewers while validating the experiences of people of color. No matter the perspective from which you approach this exhibition, all visitors are invited to carry the conversation beyond the walls of the gallery and into the community — to collectively and creatively refine American culture. Dolores invites us to embark on this vulnerable path.
 
This is not an exhibition; this is necessary cultural work.
 
Todd Bartel, Gallery Director
Thompson Gallery
 


[1] Christiane Dolores, telephone interview with Todd Bartel, October 2, 2019
[2] Christiane Dolores, Artist’s Statement, 2019
[3] Brené Brown, excerpt from, Daring Greatly, Gotham Group and Penguin Books, 2012, http://www.oprah.com/own-super-soul-sunday/excerpt-daring-greatly-by-dr-brene-brown#ixzz62h2fIgEo, retrieved October 10, 2019
[4] Dolores, excerpts, Artist’s Statement, 2019
[5] Christiane Dolores, Artist’s Statement, 2018
[6] Christiane Dolores, Seeing Color, podcast, Episode 24: The 3670 Degree Rule (w/Christiane Dolores), July 9, 2019, interview by Zhiwan Cheung, https://seeingcolorpod.com/2019/07/09/episode-24-the-360-degree-rule-w-christiane-leach/, transcribed from interview by Todd Bartel, August 20, 2019
[7] Dolores, October 2, 2019
[8] Dolores, October 2, 2019.
[9] Christiane Dolores, Todd Bartel Christiane Dolores Exhibition Notes, July 6, 2019
[10] Christiane Dolores, Episode 24: The 360 Degree Rule (w/ Christiane Dolores)




Please visit Christiane Dolores' website:

https://www.madamechristianedolores.com

Artist Interview—The 360 Degree Rule w/Christiane Dolores


Christiane Dolores would like to Thank BOOM Concepts, the #notwhitecollective and Art Historian, Rachel Klipa.
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The Cambridge School of Weston is a progressive high school for day and boarding students in grades 9–12 and PG. CSW's mission is to provide a progressive education that emphasizes deep learning, meaningful relationships, and a dynamic program that inspires students to discover who they are and what their contribution is to their school, their community and the world.