Mercedes Dorame, born in Los Angeles, California, is a member of the Gabrielino Tongva Indians of California tribe and uses the camera to engage ideas of cultural construction.
Her work is part of the collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum in Berkeley California where she had a solo show in 2012. She is the recipient of grants and fellowships from: Loop Artist Residency, En Foco’s New Works Photography Fellowship Awards #16 program, Galería de la Raza for her solo exhibition there, the Harpo Foundation for a residency at the Vermont Studio Center and from the Photography Department at the San Francisco Art Institute for her MFA Studies. She received the John Collier Award and Paul Sack prize from SFAI and a best in show for her self-published book Living Proof. Her writing and photographs have been featured in publications such as 580 Split and News From Native California. She has been interviewed about her work by the Harpo Foundation, Culture Strike, Black Boots Ink and KQED’s video podcast Gallery Crawl. She has given lectures about her work at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Ithaca College and as part of the PhotoAlliance lecture series in San Francisco, CA.
Her work explores the construction of culture and origin stories as outcomes of the need to tie one’s existence to the land. Her heritage as a member of the Gabrielino/Tongva tribe in Los Angeles connects her deeply to the landscape of California. She is interested in the problematics of living in a place that once belonged to her ancestors, a place they feel connected to yet have lost access to. This lack of physical space to congregate in and use for ceremony and remembering creates a collection of individuals constantly challenging and grappling with authenticity and inclusion/exclusion from the larger group. By working in spaces she is connected to, she engages ideas of authenticity, ceremony and community. She creates humble interventions in attempt to re-open portals of memory, to reconnect with the land. Assimilation, time, Los Angeles, death, shame: they have all worked to gnaw holes in her cultural heritage. Her work is a product of weaving back together the loose ends that have been passed down, filling in the cracks with mud, yarn and cinnamon and making a new whole.
Mercedes received her Master of Fine Art degree from the San Francisco Art Institute and her undergraduate degree from UCLA in American Literature and Culture with an emphasis in Native American Studies. She has shown her work nationally. Selected exhibitions are as follows:
2016 When I Remember I See Red - California Native American Contemporary Art, Fine Arts Gallery SFSU, San Francisco, CA
2015 Interwoven Indigenous Contemporary, Thatcher Gallery, San Francisco, CA
2015 Altar Apparitions, Handwerker Gallery, Ithaca, NY (two person show)
2014 Locating Self, Block Gallery, Oakland CA
2014 Attunement, Armory center for the arts
2013 New Works #16 Exhibition, Enfoco: Longwood Gallery, Bronx, NY
2012 In the Beginning was Fox and Cinnamon, Galería de la Raza, San Francisco, CA (solo show)
2012 re:Told, Root Division Gallery, San Francisco, CA?
2012 Sinews, Phoebe A. Hearst Museum, Berkeley, CA (solo show)?
2011 Sustaining the Circle of Knowledge, California Indian Conference, Chico, CA
2011 Origin Stories, Smokey’s Tangle, Oakland, CA (solo show)?
2011 Human Artifact,Vermont Photo Space, Essex Junction,VT?
2010 Vernissage, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, CA?
2010 Lopped off:Women Drawing Penises from Memory, Diego Rivera Gallery, San Francisco, CA
2010 Nice Try Sweetheart: A Shit Show, Swell Gallery, San Francisco, CA
2010 Last of the Mojitos, Queens Nails Projects, San Francisco, CA
2009 Born Into This, Diego Rivera Gallery, San Francisco, CA?
2009 It’s Still Life, Rayko Photo Center, San Francisco, CA?
2009 Human Studies, Swell Gallery, San Francisco, CA
2009 Gathering, Indigenous Arts Coalition, San Francisco, CA
2009 First First Show, Diego Rivera Gallery, San Francisco, CA
2009 Dig, Diego Rivera Gallery, San Francisco, CA?
2009 Artist Showcase, DUUP, Havana, Cuba
2009 Photo+Book, 23 Sandy Gallery, Portland, OR?
2008 Reburial, Diego Rivera Gallery, San Francisco, CA (solo show)?
2008 Emerging (I) 3,Traveling Exhibition,The Gallery at the Creative Center for Photography, Los Angeles, CA
2008 Once Occupied - Alcatraz, Still Lights Gallery, San Francisco, CA (solo show)?
2008 Post, Swell Gallery, San Francisco, CA