Artist Statement

An Analogy for Biculturalism (Colombia_Columbia)

A neon sign flickers. Though it spells Colombia, the top of the second “o” fizzles to reveal “Columbia.” The former derives from the Spanish “Colombo” and is a country in South America, while the latter comes from the Anglicized “Columbus” and is the namesake of innumerous cities and institutions in the United States. Though both etymologically linked to Christopher Columbus, the language in which it is written is a sign of something greater. Of course, language is inextricable from identity. The way we describe ourselves, form our opinions, and gather our ideas depend on vocabulary. How then, can one negotiate an identity caught between two languages? For me, entering my grandmother’s home in Miami, FL was tantamount to a foreign language. Both the spoken words and the visual surplus of the space stood in difference to those of my parents’ home, dominated by white Anglo culture, English language and where my identity was crafted. But it was in my grandmother’s home that I came to see myself within what Jose Esteban Muñoz calls the brown commons, or “the commons of brown people, places, feelings, sounds, animals, minerals, flora, and other objects. How these things are brown, or what makes them brown, is partially the way in which they suffer and strive together but also the commonality of their ability to flourish under duress and pressure.” Understanding my relationship to the brown commons is at the center of my practice, rendering Munoz’s theory visual—literally investigating what makes brown. One method of investigation is flocking, a technique that adheres small nylon fibers to a surface. In time, I found that the ultimate formula for brown was a layered buildup of blue, yellow, and red—the colors of the flag of my grandmother’s homeland, Colombia. Applying these layers on top of an American flag, I unify the two sides of my identity while silencing the languages of both, leaving the ultimate signifier of heritage as a field of brown. The resulting texture, somewhere between velvet and rusted metal, is beyond language itself—somewhere between Colombia and Columbia.