THE BOOK OF WHITE PEOPLE
Horreur Estorie Debriser
The BOOK of White People, by artist Christiane Dolores, is an exhibition that developed from the rumination on the complex nature of Whiteness. Rachel Klipa-Art Historian
In The Book of White People, multidisciplinary artist Christiane Dolores ruminates on the complexities of Whiteness. Her artwork attempts to confront and unpack the emotional baggage of how Whiteness affects people of color, and what it means to be white. As a complicated and sensitive topic, Christiane Dolores approaches the subject with directness and humor, and in some instances, asks the viewer to participate by writing in The Book of White People or wearing a crown.
Christiane Dolores includes a variety of artwork to highlight what Whiteness looks and acts like. In her paintings, she recreates a scene from a historical photograph of a lynching that focuses on the reactions of the white crowd, and from an illustration of a Native American battling a cowboy. Both were created with layer upon layer of different types of white ceiling paint until the scenes emerge. The body hanging from the tree in the painting of the lynching, and the image of the Native American in the other, are treated differently; instead of white paint, each figure is a silhouette made from reflective paper, forcing the viewer to see herself/himself/theirself as part of the narrative being told in each painting.
In other works, Christiane Dolores comments on the ridiculous nature of white behavior by installing a faux fireplace that “burns” items such as Nike products, a recent occurrence due to the Nike advertisement featuring Colin Kaepernick. She also hangs a crown from the ceiling, reminiscent of a dunce cap, or a KKK hood, topped with a cotton flower and covered in tulle, in lace. To wear it, the viewer must stand underneath it and become blinded by the various components of the crown, carrying the weight and shuffling through razor blades.
The Book of White People, although the name of the exhibition, is also a book created by Christiane Dolores. At the top of each page is the phrase, “When They…” The idea is to have viewers fill in the book with their experiences with white people. When communicating with fellow people of color and unbrown people about their discriminatory experiences with White people, Christiane Dolores has jokingly referenced this book with “oh that’s chapter 22 in The Book of White People,’ or “oh that’s chapter 15 in The Book of White People.’ Do White people understand that they all sound the same?.”
Through her work, Christiane Dolores hopes to disarm people enough for them to be able to question, what is Whiteness? Dolores says, “People are so wrapped up in Whiteness that they aren’t even aware of it. When a person of color questions Whiteness, white people act as if their entire existence is being countered. But is that their existence? Or, is it something that white people were raised to never question?” ---Rachel Klipa, Art Historian, Person