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Exhibition: "In the Beginning was Fox and Cinnamon"

New works by Mercedes Dorame

Saturday, October 27, 2012 - Saturday, November 17, 2012

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Galería de la Raza is pleased to present In the Beginning was Fox and Cinnamon, a solo exhibition by artist Mercedes Dorame, opening on Saturday, October 27, 2012. As a member of the Gabrielino Tongva Indians of California – a tribe not federally recognized and therefore has no reservation land – Dorame brings her large-scale photographic works to Galería in search and exploration of her roots and historical background.

Using personal and cultural “artifacts” in conjunction with what exists in the landscape, Dorame explores the construction of community and origin stories as cultural outcomes of the need to tie one’s existence to the land. The artist’s cultural heritage deeply connects her to the landscape of California, and as a result, piques the interest in the problematics of living in a place that once belonged to ancestors, a place one feels connected to, yet has lost access to.

Dorame is a 2011 GINAA grantee (Grantwriting for Indigenous and Native American Artists), a capacity-building and commissioning grant program for Native artists living in the greater Bay Area. Launched in 2009, Galería awards up to five commission grants annually for projects to be presented and exhibited at Galería de la Raza.


Artist statement:

As part of a Native American tribe without federal recognition, I have no reservation land to return to. This lack of physical space to congregate and use for ceremony and remembering has created a collection of individuals constantly challenging and grappling with authenticity and inclusion/exclusion from the larger group. My experience of isolation and separation from a larger community propels me to explore this same phenomenon in mine and other cultural groups. The destruction of community is something that I feel many people face; however, I believe it is the longing to belong and the desire to join a group that makes us human.

In these photographs, I include my own personal and cultural “artifacts” in conjunction with what exists in the landscape – often there are just small clues of my presence. I use objects such as shells, rocks, teacups, and other objects I connect with on a spiritual level. Some of these objects are heirlooms handed down to me. Others are discarded items I've collected from archaeological sites. I look to this space and my interventions there in the same way I look at archaeological sites as a cultural resource monitor – looking for clues to another time. As a Native American, I am asked to consult on sites in Los Angeles and Orange County where cultural objects and burial sites are being excavated for land development. My experience on these sites makes me keenly aware of the issues of land access and assigning context to cultural objects.

The locations in In the Beginning was Fox and Cinnamon are located in coastal Los Angeles County, on culturally significant sites I have worked on as a cultural resource monitor and on a hillside that belongs to my grandparents. I grew up on the hillside and have access to it not because of my tribal heritage, but because of personal property ownership by my non-native ancestors. Although I feel fortunate to have access to a swath of land that exists very similarly to when my ancestors inhabited the area, I know this access is temporary much like my access to the archaeological sites where development is imminent. I feel connected to the landscape here and feel that I can access another time through my exploration in these places.

I look to explore a landscape within the context of a broader cultural desire to reconnect with the land and the origin stories that have been inscribed physically and spiritually into cultural memory. I use both elements that exist in the landscape and perform my own interventions with objects and materials creating installations, or using the camera to document the exploration. I seek to create and explore these culturally significant sites in Southern California in order to make a new personal narrative. This is necessary because much of our culture was systematically erased. I hope to create a narrative that mixes truth and fiction in order to tell my personal history in conjunction to my cultural ancestry believing that the imagined can be equally as powerful as facts.


About the artist:

Mercedes Dorame, born in Los Angeles, is an artist based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has shown her work nationally. She recently spent three years at the San Francisco Art Institute earning her Masters in Fine Art. She received her undergraduate degree from UCLA in American Literature and Culture. She draws from a deep well of personal experience and cultural tradition to create photographs, sculpture, and installations that are guided by intuition. In May 2012, she contributed an installation to UC Berkeley’s Hearst Museum, called Sinews. Last year, she exhibited at Oakland’s Smokey's Tangle, presenting a solo show called Origin Stories and also received a full fellowship from the Harpo Foundation for a residency at the Vermont Studio Center. Most recently, Dorame received an award from En Foco, a New York non-profit organization that nurtures and supports contemporary fine art and documentary photographers of diverse cultures, primarily of U.S. Latino, African and Asian heritage, and Native peoples of the Americas and the Pacific.

"Gaps exist in memory, history hangs by threads, and anxiety about authenticity and value seeps through the cracks. Through my work I seek to regenerate to connective tissue of personal and collective meaning to reconstruct a whole." -Mercedes Dorame

Artist reception Saturday, October 27 - 6:30pm members' preview, 7:30pm general public

Free and open to the public


Mercedes Dorame


Title: They Carried Sacred Soil
Artist: Mercedes Dorame
Medium: C-Print Title: There were Massacres
Artist: Mercedes Dorame
Medium: C-Print Title: Spilling onto Future Fire
Artist: Mercedes Dorame
Medium: C-Print Title: Receptacle of Hope
Artist: Mercedes Dorame
Medium: C-Print Title: Path Made by Spirits
Artist: Mercedes Dorame
Medium: C-Print Title: Offering to Oblivion
Artist: Mercedes Dorame
Medium: C-Print Title: In the Beginning
Artist: Mercedes Dorame
Medium: C-Print Title: Hill Side Inhabited
Artist: Mercedes Dorame
Medium: C-Print Title: Heavy Burden
Artist: Mercedes Dorame
Medium: C-Print Title: Hanging Peace Offering
Artist: Mercedes Dorame
Medium: C-Print Title: Follow Me to the Water
Artist: Mercedes Dorame
Medium: C-Print Title: Catapult to the Cosmos
Artist: Mercedes Dorame
Medium: C-Print Title: Burial Pit
Artist: Mercedes Dorame
Medium: C-Print Title: Ascension
Artist: Mercedes Dorame
Medium: C-Print
Artist portrait
Galería de la Raza: an Interdisciplinary Chicano/Latino Space for Art, Thought and Activism
2857 24th Street, San Francisco, CA 94110 click here for directions to galería