Artist Delano Dunn on exploring racial identity through his work

Artist Delano Dunn on exploring racial identity through his work


JUDY WOODRUFF: Tonight’s Brief But Spectacular
features artist Delano Dunn. His work explore questions of racial identity. DELANO DUNN, Artist: I grew up in Los Angeles,
California, so South Central L.A., which is a block of about 24 neighborhoods. When I was a young kid, the neighborhood was
fantastic. You know, I would play outside on the streets
with most of my friends. But, as I got older, got into my teens, things
got rough. The riots happened. The gang wars sort of sparked, so it became
a neighborhood where you couldn’t walk down the street. It became very rough. Everything about the neighborhood that I grew
up in, the friends that I had, the experiences of being a black student in a predominantly
white high school and elementary school, all of those things come into the work. My work is not happy work. It’s very difficult work. It’s very powerful work, I like to think. So I make stuff very colorful. I make it bright. I make it look like a piece of candy, so that
you want to come up and unwrap it. And when you do and you put it in your mouth,
it tastes like salt. As a kid, we didn’t talk much about the civil
rights movement in the house. I was more interested in space, in space exploration. As I got older, I started to realize really
what was probably more important to my life. PROTESTERS: Freedom, freedom, freedom. DELANO DUNN: And I started to want to have
a reconciliation. You’re taught in school that these two events
are happening not at the same time, even though they actually are. And the goal was to build a new history that
showed these two events happening concurrently, and these two groups of people working together
to develop a cohesive idea of the American dream. 1961 is significant because, in my research,
it was the first time I found these remarkable connections. So you have got Freedom Riders driving down
on May 4 to desegregate interstate travel. And the next day, one of the Mercury astronauts
goes up. I remember sitting in the library at the time
coming to that conclusion, and it just kind of blew my mind, that these things were happening
within hours and days of each other. Growing up and not really seeing any black
astronauts, to have this opportunity to make a world where you have African-Americans and
these astronauts working together, and blending the lines that maybe, you know, African-Americans
were part of these Mercury missions, made me kind of giddy, and I decided to go see
what I could do with it. I grew up in a family that was mostly women. I was raised by my mom, my aunt, and my grandmother. And I wanted to make work that talked about
the contribution that women have had in history, whether it be African-American civil rights
movement, whether it be the space race. My daughter’s name is Violet, and she’s 6. It’s a rough world out there, and particularly
for women and particularly for women of color. And so when I make work, I think a lot about
her. I make sure that I have images of women in
the work and that these women are not seen through the male gaze and that they’re depicted
in positions of power and strength. And that is the main impact of the work these
days, is her. My name is Delano Dunn. And this is my Brief But Spectacular take
on exploring the world through my art. JUDY WOODRUFF: And you can watch additional
Brief But Spectacular episodes on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.

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