What Matters (better late than never)

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Last year was an eventful one for Team CG. We started up the year with awesome shows like Present Standard at the Chicago Cultural Center curated by the wonderful artists, Josue Pellot and Edra Soto. This show served as a contemporary survey of Chicago Latinx artists and was also one of the best curated shows of 2016. The images below were taken in front of Diana’s piece, Fleco.

See the following links for more press, images, and info on the show:

The Annual at Chicago Artist Coalition, also curated by Edra Soto ran at the same time as Chicago Art Expo. It was a big weekend in Chicago with lots of art to see and artists to meet! See images of both events here:

The StArt Up Art Fair was another very interesting event happening at the same time as Expo and The Annual. Artist and art guru, Paul Klein talks to artists, Edra Soto, Magalie Guerin, Juan Angel Chavez, Jenny Lam, and Tom Torluemke about What Matters. What are some of the core concepts that matter to this diverse group of relevant Chicago artists, and how money, professionalism, and community impact their practices.

Lastly, we wanted to dedicate this post to Diana’s aunt, Emmita. She was a mother to those of us who who needed one. Always there and up for anything. She was a friend, art supporter, and a late blooming artist, herself. Her parting was devastating but the void in our hearts will overflow with all of the beautiful memories and love she left for us. Rest in Peace.

Emmita with Sabina Ott’s ‘Because Mountains Are So High’ at Chicago Art Expo

Germinate- Short. Paola Cabal

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A couple of weeks ago we released the first installment of Germinate. Karen Azarnia graciously let us into her studio and gave us an insight on curating Radiance at Woman Made Gallery and her own artwork. She mentioned the upcoming show for the artist in-residence, Paola Cabal at Riverside Art Center, where, like in Radiance, light would be the muse. Here is a little conversation with Paola about Crescent, the culmination of her residence at RAC.

Paola Cabal

A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Paola Cabal has lived in Chicago since 2001. Trained in observational realism, Cabal continues to implement responsive looking in her increasingly diverse practice, which includes site-specific installation, collaborative work, and more recently curating and writing in addition to her ongoing engagement with more traditional drawing media. Alongside her own art-making, Paola Cabal is an active member of the three-person collaborative (ƒ)utility projects and an educator at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and DePaul University.

IMG_20150830_172352172Karen Azarnia (curator) and Artist-in-residence, Paola Cabal.

Paola normally creates site specific installations tracking the transitions of daylight. For Crescent, at RAC , Cabal spent the night of 7.31 to 8.1 tracking the passing of the “blue moon” light through the gallery windows as it played with the architecture of the gallery. The end result: a series of shapes on both walls and floors that trick you into believing there is light coming into the room from multiple light sources. In actuality, all you are seeing are lightly painted ghosts of the light that used to be, making us think about the passage of time and fleeting moments.

“The not knowing and then the coming to an idea (the moonlight was a gift, I had no idea it would come into the space that way), and then working like mad to make that happen.”


DG: Is there anything you’d like to share about your process?

PC: Sure, there’s something that’s been on my mind since I had a conversation with Diane Simpson, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since: I had no idea what I was going to do at the Freeark Gallery before beginning my residency there. I had no idea. And lest that should sound cavalier or overconfident, let me also say that it stressed me out. I completed a residency at Ragdale in which I was thinking about this show; I got as far as building a scale model of the gallery space, but I *still* didn’t know what I was making.

So, I’m talking about the show with Diane Simpson and she is asking me what I plan to do, and I confess to her that I don’t know. Diane being Diane, and brilliant and sweet, she says “Oh, I’m sure you’ll come up with something great. I have total confidence in you… The thing about the way you work,” she remarked, “Is that you’re kind of inventing it from scratch each time. I don’t know how you do it.,” she said. “It would stress me out so much.”

DG: Yup. Site specific work is terrifying but super rewarding.

PC: I don’t know if it had occurred to me until that conversation though, that most people don’t work that way, that for most artists artistic production involves the creation of a series of discrete objects which are then placed in conversation with one another for a show, rather than dauntingly improvised and immediately responsive reactions to a specific place.

IMG_20150830_171145983“As a site specific artist whose work only gets manifest, as such, in the form of a public exhibition, my work can almost be considered a series of public experiments.”

DG: Most site specific work is very responsive. You can plan up to a certain point but most of the time you have to get familiar with the space, listen to what it needs, and embrace whatever happens as you’re working. And when you are done, you feel like a rockstar.

PC: Rock star though, I mean, I wish! Something I think I do share with more traditional makers is the feeling of profound ambivalence that follows after I’ve made anything. As a site specific artist whose work only gets manifest, as such, in the form of a public exhibition, my work can almost be considered a series of public experiments. So I finish, usually sleep deprived, and I mean, I *hope* it’s ok? I think it’s good? Your friends who show up to your exhibition opening are not going to be like “Damn P, Y U make such crappy crap?” I mean, I do thankfully have one or two friends who would give me the straight dope, but for the most part everyone is going to smile and be gracious and wonderful, you know? So that’s little indication whether I’ve made something worth looking at.
Instead, I have to overcome my ambivalence by going back to my own show again and again, kind of making peace with what I would have liked to get to but didn’t, what I did get to but would have liked to do better, until the whole thing either holds up, finally, or collapses under the weight of my continued scrutiny.
I’m marginally better now but what this used to mean is that I would be the worlds’ worst self promoter. My ambivalence would run so deep and continuous and daunting that I wouldn’t even tell people I had a show up. And then like maybe a week before it would close, having finally wrestled myself into a position of affinity or agreement with what I’d made, *then* I’d tell some people that it was there.

IMG_20150830_170957440Paola Cabal. To and From, 2015. Site-Specific installation. Two-Channel video

In the Sculpture Garden, (ƒ)utility projects (a collaborative comprised of Paola Cabal, Michael Genge, and Chris Grieshaber), have a site specific installation where they merged the garden with the gallery, by incorporating walls, the surrounding trees, and natural night.


Crescent runs through October 3rd.

Riverside Arts Center + Freeark Gallery

32 E Quincy St, Riverside, Illinois 60546

More images of the show:

GERMINATE. Karen Azarnia. Her work and the curation of Radiance at Woman Made Gallery.

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Germinate is a new series of interviews that explore curation as an art form, with a focus on artists who incorporate curating into their creative practice. Karen is an exhibiting Chicago based artist who has curated and participated in relevant contemporary exhibitions in the Chicagoland area. I’ve known Karen for her wonderful paintings that walk the line between figuration and abstraction, but became interested in her curatorial practice through the Riverside Art Center, where she’s curated some amazing exhibitions, including “All In’.


Karen Azarnia

Karen Azarnia is an artist, curator and educator.  She received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. She has exhibited widely, with solo exhibitions at Terrain, Oak Park, IL; the Union League Club of Chicago, IL; and recent group exhibitions at Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln, NE; The Franklin, Chicago, IL; and Confort Station, Chicago, IL. She is a grant recipient from the Illinois Arts Council and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, and has been included in Hyperallergic, the Huffington Post and Newcity. She currently teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and serves as Director of Exhibitions at the Riverside Arts Center Freeark Gallery.

DG: Tell me about the new work you made for the show at Woman Made Gallery.

KA: For the Woman Made installation, I actually had two panels. I’ve been working on them in tandem, side by side. I’m really enjoying the scale of how large they are and how quickly I can execute them.

IMG_2939Karen’s studio at Mana Contemporary Chicago

“There is also the softness that has always been important in the work. It hits at this idea of memory too, and the way memory functions over time.”

DG: Would you keep them on the stretchers or do you want them to be more like loose fabric?

KA: I think they need to have this looseness, this notion of the movement. It changes, it shifts when they are tacked down; It kind of deadens them. There is this thing that happens with the translation of the figures as the pieces shift and if you get a little movement or a little wind and they flutter a little bit. There is this additional layer of confusion. A lot of people might think there is a real person behind it and that’s something I’m inviting. I want that confusion to take place; I think that’s interesting. People know it conceptually, but they have to do a double take, like “Oh wait wait, I have to check that and see if there is a person or not”. You know, this idea of looking and slowing people down for a moment to experience something like that.

There is this idea that we are all subject to the passage of time and change; it’s inevitable. These are a meditation on that. We all have connections to each other and as these fade in and out, it’s a metaphor for our larger experience. There is also the softness that has always been important in the work. It hits at this idea of memory too, and the way memory functions over time. Things come in and out of focus or shift. The narratives that we have for memories shift.

DG: What about the white?

KA: People always ask me about the white. It’s about light but also inter-related to light and memory, and these things are all interconnected for me. In the older work I’m half flirting with it. I’d spend all this time working with the figure, and then I’d be like, I’m just going to paint this with white…just a little. Then I had a break through moment where I just painted the whole, just went for it, and really obscured most of the painting. You can see the history if you look from the side. You can see some of the previous marks. It’s really pushed back. Now, I have this range of images where some are more legible, and some are more pushed back.

“it becomes about my relationship with that painting and about painting itself.”

DG: What about your sources?

KA: I’m working from my own photos. I, for the most part, don’t appropriate. For me the photo is the document that proves I was there, I witnessed and observed something that actually happened. That’s the starting point, and then I might sample, or go back to old photos when they become important to me. Then later, partly through the painting the photo gets put away and completely shelved, it becomes about my relationship with that painting and about painting itself.

DG: Do you specifically use photos that you’ve taken yourself? Not photos of which you were the subject?

KA: Yes, I take the photos myself and am usually not the subject. If I take a photo of something, it’s usually because…it’s so subjective. It’s something you relate to, something that grabs your interest, that maybe sparks a memory of something; and I might not even know it at the time. I was working on another painting, and I didn’t even realize until half way through that it was because something I remember from my childhood. Often, these unconscious connections happen.

DG: How do you approach photography in relation to social media? and how does that a relate to your painting?

KA: The images that these paintings are derived from, I would generally not post because there is a kind of a intimate privacy to them. I’m conscious about it because this image is something I would want to make a painting from.

I have a stash of thousands of photos, and it might not be until even years later that I’m like, Oh I remember when I took this… Where did that go? Or because something sparks or something becomes relevant much later. Sometimes it’s very immediate. I’m specifically thinking of this and going to take a photo or find something that would relate to that. Often they sit around for a very long time and I’ll wait until it’s the right moment to use that source. It can be because of an experience I’ve had or something I’m thinking about at that present moment. Or friends and family…so it’s based on experiences and what other people I know are going through. So there’s a social component and it ties back to the idea that everyone is connected. Social media, while it has it’s own issues, we are much more connected… well, yes and no. We project. I can watch my friend’s kids grow up on Facebook. I would not have that experience otherwise.
Just-There_finalBarely. Karen Azarnia. 2013

“I feel when I’m putting together a show, often times, it is like making a painting.”

DG: Let’s switch gears and talk about the show you curated at Woman Made Gallery. When I think about curators, their process is very much the same to the way you put together an art work.  It’s that instead of thinking about the paint, canvas, the colors, like you have all of these separate elements and you put them together into this thing; and as the curator, you are thinking about different pieces from different artists and finding a way to make them click together visually, or through the idea or theme for the show.

KA: I think that hits the nail on the head. I feel when I’m putting together a show, often times, it is like making a painting. You start with a notion, but then as you start to actually go in and make selections. You nail down curatorial choices or pieces, it’s like making a move on a painting. As you make more moves and more selections, you maybe edit and you refine until you get down to the very nitty-gritty and those last few little decisions in the gallery when you’re installing, like those last few marks that can always take forever in a painting. But then it all comes together and there’s this huge deal of satisfaction that comes out of that too.

10857088_942321699147679_5801332424957104909_oRadiance artist talk at Woman Made Gallery (courtesy of Woman Made Gallery)

“you are responsible to a viewer, you are responsible to the artists, to represent their vision.”

DG: It’s about the experience?

KA: Absolutely. Because you are responsible to a viewer, you are responsible to the artists, to represent their vision. You try to make each artist shine, if it’s a group show, and if it is a solo or a two-person exhibition, really conveying the notion of their practice and what they try to convey to they viewer. Also, a responsibility to the viewer for their experience in the show.


DG: So tell me about this show.

KA: The name of the show is Radiance. It’s at Woman Made Gallery and it’s up through August 20th. I was approached by the previous director, Claudine Isé, about perhaps coming and doing something at Woman Made. I was thinking about different themes that interest me and one was the basic idea of light. It’s a fairly large space, so I was thinking about how I’d want to fill that space and wanting an interesting collection of different approaches. Light is something that’s a little more broad in terms of thematic content, but it’s something that’s always been in my work whether I’ve foregrounded or not, so I thought that would be great.

Also, thinking about summertime and being bathed in light after we’ve been starving for it after going through the winter in Chicago. I thought it’d appropriate on multiple levels. And then there’s been some really interesting artists working with the medium currently and also exhibits.
Elmhurst Art Museum, Staci Boris curated SpotLight and up at the Riverside Arts Center we are going to have Paola Cabal open the season. She does gorgeous light installation work, very site specific by documenting the movement of light through space. I just thought this would be a kind of timely subject to deal with also.

IMG_3071Prism Inversion. Gina Hunt.

DG: What about the curating?

KA: I was trying to keep it broad to make it inclusive because you have a lot of different approaches. You have a much more historical traditional use of light, with painting and photography. Then you have the element of film, kicking forward to light as a medium itself with people using the very physical property of light. And of course others using a more conceptual approach to light.

IMG_3067Morpho. Ana Kunz

I generally don’t curate myself into a show. I usually don’t do that. But When Claudine (Ise) saw the time lapse video of the installation I did at Terrain the previous spring, she said, “Could you do something like that on our front window?”, so I said “OK, that would be really fun. I would enjoy doing that”. So that is how that came about.

DG: I’m sure you’ve got a huge selection to chose from. How did you go about narrowing it down?

KA: There was a ton of work. I’ve must of gone through something like 300 images. I was looking for artists with strong practices. And they did submit a statement with their work, so of course that helps to understand what they are trying to get at because some of the pieces are conceptually based. Also, finding interesting relationships between artists so there is dialogue and conversation between the pieces that can be provocative to the viewer.

This is probably the trickiest show I’ve ever done because I had to work with light based works that maybe project or that needed very specific lighting. That was very tricky. Sometimes you bump into physical constraints of the actual exhibition space and practical stuff like that.

IMG_3097Where do I begin? Cassandra Stadnicki (top). After Image. Lauren Sudbrink (bottom)

DG: The space is just another one of those elements you have to juggle for the show to be successful.

KA: It is. So, if you are talking about it as a kind of art piece. It becomes a site specific installation since it’s in response to the architecture. Trying not to overhang or underhang. Finding that balance. It was tricky but fun.

DG: Since you are using light based work, I’m sure some of the work was tricky to install because it needed special lighting. Where some of those artists there to help you install?

KA: Yeah. Some of the artists who had more specific instructions, like projections. Some came and we worked together to designate a spot and find the best location for it. Then I let them install and we kind of tweaked it, but others are more straight-forward like paintings. Some shows that I’ve curated, it’s completely site-specific-installation based, so just I hand over a key. There is really nothing I can do. I can assist or be there for support to provide whatever they need but it’s more about them and responding to the space versus a very straight-forward painting show like “All In” at Riverside Art Center. Art works gets delivered and I try to hang it to the best presentation of the pieces.

Check out  more images from the Radiance Exhibition at Woman Made Gallery.

Other People’s Pixels Interview with Diana Gabriel from The CG Team

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I’ve managed my online portfolio through OPP for quite a few years now. I love it because it’s easy to manage and it has quite a variety of templates and other cool features, but it wasn’t until a few months ago I found out they have a pretty legit blog full of wonderful interviews with some of the artists they host. I was approached by the talented, Stacia Yeapanis, who writes the interviews, to do one for the end of summer. It finally came out today. So here it is:

Interview with Diana Gabriel

If you like to see the site, here is mine:

Diana’s Online Portfolio

String and wood

A Stitch in Time – August 2013. Natalie, Dee, Jay and Em. #LoveWins

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A Stitch in Time

Surrealism and cultural distortion are a day-to-day occurrences now. I first noticed the world shifting around me in the Summer of 2012. The CG Project was beginning its second year. It was the beginning of an idea that would lead to my Dual World photo series.

It’s tough to remember how we survived it but I preserved some of the emotions we shared over the last few years through something I called Chain Corpse, a combination Chain Letter and Exquisite Corpse. It was a way for me to connect with people I respect about issues that plagued us all. I hope that you find some value in them now that some time has passed.

Today felt like the right day to end this series. The Supreme Court settled some long running debates on the Affordable Care Act and Gay Marriage. Love won over hate. Perhaps the most iconic image to capture the spirit of the moment comes in the form of a comic that shows the today’s victory in the context that may represent a restoration of sanity. No one knows how long it will last but the mainstream distancing itself from the confederate flag for the rainbow flag shows a major shift in American values. This could be the closure we’ve been looking for.

Love Wins

The post below is the conclusion to A Stitch in Time, which is a response to Linda, Jennifer and Camille is a response to Mario and Arlen, which were responses to Sandy’s, which was a response to Fielden’s, which was a response to Mario’s from June of 2012.

Natalie – August 4, 2013

“It’s time to stop using racism as the catch-all explanation for all that’s wrong with the world and just accept that some people are crazy assholes who shouldn’t be allowed to have guns.”

I’d like to address this specific quote:

I say it’s time for white people to stop being so afraid to confront racism and actually sit in the dirty, ugly, uncomfortable feelings it SHOULD give you. In all of my life as a person of color I have never “used” racism as tool to gain sympathy or to explain all the ills of the world. What I have done (and what I believe in my heart most people of color do) is speak the truth of MY reality. And as far as I’m concerned, no one can tell me that the experiences that I’ve had as a person of color are exaggerated or perhaps miscontrued due to an oversensitive nature when it

comes to race. I will never understand how a person can so casually dismiss, question, and ultimately negate another human being’s experience. Is it really so hard to listen? To perhaps try and understand how another human being may see the world through a very different lens?

And sadly, racism is one of the most troubling things about what is wrong with this world. It may not have an effect on the life of a white person on a daily basis, but for a person of color it is a part of your experience. Every. Single. Day. One of “privilege” of just so happening to be born white, is the gift of not having to think about race every day. It simply becomes an annoyance, a thing you want to push down and away so that you don’t have to think about all of the pain or anger or resentment or guilt or whatever you feel when a person of color uses “the race card.” And if I hear another person use that term (the race card) again I may run head first into a brick wall. Enough already. It’s just so dismissive and simple. Not speaking about racism doesn’t make it go away. As with any problem we have to deal with, not talking about it does absolutely nothing to solve it. It is still there, and often comes back later to bite us on the ass.

The Trayvon Martin story is one of those moments where the issue of race has been festering and has bubbled to the surface revealing that the stinking problem of racism is still there. The fact that black people have to live in a world that they see as not valuing their lives as much as a white person’s is not ok. I don’t want to live in that world and I will do everything in my power to change it into a place that values every human life. So, I say we need to talk more about race. Until it hurts. Until you can’t take it anymore. Until you feel it. Really feel it. And I will continue to speak to racism’s truth whenever and wherever I see it. I hope that you do too.

Dee – August 9, 2013


I’m black but I’ve never identified as black

The color of my skin told me that I was a part of a culture and history

I was never able to truly identify with

An Oreo cookie that has felt more like a Vanilla Wafer

Whites fear me cause I look black. Blacks alienate me because I act white


I saw a black boy accused of stealing what wasn’t his

The circumstantial evidence all pointed to him but no one knew for sure

I watched as they patted him down and searched every crevice of his bag

The color of my skin told me to sympathize with him. Guilty or not

But for every bag of weed they pulled out of his backpack

The more distant from him I felt

The more I felt like a white man accusing a black boy of a crime


In my mind I was fighting a stereo type

At the same time doing what I thought was right

I questioned whether I was objectively looking at the evidence presented

I questioned whether or not we questioned him because he was black and young

I questioned the color of my skin

Jay – August 18, 2013

When I began university, at the end of my first week I took an influential class that has stuck with me to this day: History of Film. That Friday morning the professor came in and before he began his lecture gave us a protracted personal appeal. He said that we were all in this class because we were fans of movies and wanted to make them. He paused and added, “that isn’t enough.” He said it wasn’t enough to see a bunch of films, or to even want to talk about them, or consider yourself a movie buff. He said we had to go beyond simply being a fan of film or having fun watching them. We had to ask questions about “how” it affected us and why.

I wrote that down in my little Mead notebook and carried it with me for years. That realization from that course stayed with me. Part of it is because I’m a person who tries to be thoughtful instead of impulsively acting on an emotion. But another large part is that through the years I’ve seen that some of my favorite filmmakers and critics create work that makes me think about philosophy, the world, life, my country, and myself. I’ve expanded that first bit of knowledge–why did you have that reaction?–and tried to apply it elsewhere. I’ve decided that as an artist, I’d create work that is about protagonists having emotional, social, or philosophical concerns or wants, and showing how they sit down and wrestle with important questions and conflicts as they act on them.

In the days, weeks, and months since the Trayvon Martin killing, trail, and decision, I’m finding I’m in a great minority on this. People have emotional reactions and opinions, but are just reacting by blabbing away, and not giving a thought to what they say, or post, or create as internet memes.  The case itself (and this reaction) gave me great concern about where our country and our world is heading. The “Stand Your Ground” law was an example of how corporate takeover of government has prevented the will of a people from living out their lives in a basic humanistic way.

When I listen to the 911 call, and hear a grown ass man bypassing logic, reason, and empathy from an operator who says, “We don’t need you to [follow the kid].” I get concerned. This is a man showing zeal, furor, and paranoia all because he’s seen a “suspicious” young black man. He’s put aside logic and is now thinking with that gun. He’s not thinking about “why” he had that reaction.

The police force and court system who dragged their feet on pressing charges on Zimmerman didn’t think about “why” they had that reaction. It took activists and organizers engaged on various issues, and a news media dedicated to trying to get facts to put pressure on even getting the question asked. And then the jurors in the trial–based on their own words–weren’t even trying to be Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men, and trying to force the other jurors to question their assumptions. They decided to be thoughtless and carefree as they literally rushed to judgement. Only days later did one go forth on the news and say that she “probably” made a mistake.

That all shows what my professor told us about: having an emotional reaction. The way average movie goers do (and should). But some folks who should be doing more–having some thought into things–aren’t stepping up. And I’m getting a bit shocked.  Some reactions, even in this chain, haven’t given me much hope that we can have a meditative, contemplative, or thoughtful discussion or deliberation of these things.. Maybe I’m asking too much out of people. Maybe this is all too raw, and too soon, especially after the Amadou Diallos, Sean Bells, and Oscar Grants of the world. But at some point there needs to be some thoughtful exploration of, “Why?”

Why are people so quick to jump to defend a grown ass man who stalked, followed, and killed (all by his own admission), a kid almost half his age? Are you this in love with the Constitution and the set of laws that you’ll follow this logic down this rabbit hole? Appreciating a piece of paper or the life of a human being? Are you willing to admit that maybe just some of you have a hard time connecting with Trayvon and his right to “Stand His Ground” because he’s a young black kid?

Why is the reaction of “I don’t want to talk about this?” so strong and prevalent? Is there something wrong with having an opinion or an emotion on this case?

Why are some folks–in the white community and black alike–willing to point to tropes like, “Zimmerman wasn’t white” or “Black kids murder black kids in Chicago everyday!” as a be all and an end all when this comes up? Why is your emotional reaction to automatically remove yourself, your race, and your role as a citizen from this? What makes you think that solves the problem of a dead kid shot through the heart?

And why does your own history, baggage, or unresolved mental health problems with race worth bringing into this discussion? There’s a kid that’s dead, and again, we don’t want others like him popping up anytime soon. And if you’re an Obama or a ?uestlove and you think that sharing your stories with America (or White America) can provide a conduit and an entry point for people to realize that what happens to Trayvon happens every day, that’s fine. I commend you. But your own internal conflicts about the n-word, “cracker”, or not being black enough, or whatever, have NOTHING to do with what happened to this young man and what his family is going through.

What I learned in school stuck with me as I hear conversations, see Facebook posts, or watch the news now that we’re trying to have a nationally focused conversation on race. But just like that teacher told me about wanting to study film in order to make film: please know your shit, and ask a question or two about why you’re reacting before you decide to engage the rest of the world with your bitchy whining.

Em – August 18, 2013

Our history, baggage and unresolved mental health problems are the Why in this equation. The nuance of human existence exists in the grays, between impassioned, polarized prophets that are comfortable in the shade of their own skin. Many of us don’t have that privilege, so we swing like a pendulum.

“Have you ever noticed that their stuff is shit and your shit is stuff?” – George Carlin

When I hear Dee’s story, it sounds like my own. I grew up as a coconut even though I just learned the term a few years ago. Brown on the outside but white on the inside is how people saw me. Now that I know about this term, it isn’t one I wear with pride. I had a hard brown shell that held soft creamy meat, the most valuable part of a coconut. Once that part of me went rotten, I stopped hearing things like “You’re the whitest Mexican I know” or “Why do you wanna be white?”

“One of us. One of us.” – Freaks, 1932

That shell was just a cocoon though, armor to get me through the battle that is adolescence. Inside this Coco Loco was a hollow core with fluid swooshing around inside. I recognized the path that would lead to an easier life, but chose the uphill battle of self-identifying as a Chicano, or American with indigenous roots. I resigned my title of whitest Mexican for that of Hypersensitive Racist with a distorted view of reality. Folks walk on eggshells around me, for fear of saying something that will send me into a rant. I can turn a party into a classroom within seconds if someone pushes the wrong button.

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” – Hamlet Act 3, Scene 2

When my fuse does go off, it’s usually because someone’s point of view is being ignored or invalidated by “the truth.” My home lies outside the truth. My experiences of racial profiling need to be reviewed by each new jury before my race card is validated for the discussion. This goes double when judge considers that I could pass for Italian by hiding from my real name. Triple when my backwards hat and busted license plate light are submitted as evidence that I should expect to be questioned. The history I accept to be truth largely is due to being brainwashed with socialist propaganda. The injustices I witness in the world around me are all in my head. I live in a different America, I’m part of the 47% that sees themselves as victims and wants Big Government to solve all my problems.

“Opportunity looks a hell of a lot like hard work.” Chris Kutcher

What strikes me about Jay’s reaction to Dee is that it sounds like the responses I get when I step outside my echo chamber. As a brown man, I’m a tourist in their particular struggle but it looks, smells and sounds a hell of a lot like what’s happening on my side of the fence. The hard part is that we all have to listen to one another and search our own souls to arrive at where we’re headed. That’s the How, we heal one painful stitch at a time. With honey instead of vinegar.

Here’s where it gets interesting. I sent this entry to someone else who was gracious enough to respond, but before I post that mystery person’s piece of the puzzle, I’m giving you all a chance to respond to my piece. I’ll give you all this opportunity to contribute after each installment. Let see how this all plays out.