Native Bruins: Past, Present & Emerging – Mercedes Dorame

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the UCLA American Indian Studies Center

The Tongva artist Mercedes Dorame is a 2003 UCLA graduate who earned a BA in American Literature and Culture and went on to receive an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. She calls on her Tongva ancestry to engage the problematics of visibility and ideas of cultural construction, and to explore the construction of culture and ceremony as outcomes of the need to tie one’s existence to the land, even when the Tongva people have been dispossessed from their lands and remain a non-federally recognized tribe. By working in landscapes she is connected to, her artwork engages ideas of authenticity, ceremony and community.

“Using my practice to re-open portals of memory and to reconnect with my ancestors. I create humble ceremonial interventions in the landscape and sculptural installations which become visions of the night sky in the gallery space. Creating a narrative that mixes fact and fiction in order to tell a new story, I believe that the imagined can be equally as powerful as fact. Assimilation, time, Los Angeles, death, shame: they have all worked to gnaw holes in my cultural heritage. My work is a product of weaving back together the loose ends that have been passed down to me, filling in the cracks with mud, yarn, concrete and cinnamon and making a new whole.”

Dorame’s work is in the permanent collections of the Hammer Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Triton Museum, the Allen Memorial Art Museum, the de Saisset Museum, the Montblanc Foundation Collection, and the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum. She is the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Montblanc Art Commission, the New York Foundation for the Arts, Loop Artist Residency, the James Phelan Award for California born visual artists, En Foco’s New Works Photography Fellowship Awards program, Galería de la Raza, the Harpo Foundation and from the Photography Department at the San Francisco Art Institute for her MFA Studies. She was recently part of the Hammer Museum’s “Made in L.A. 2018” exhibition and her work has been featured internationally.