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Jessica Walker
San Francisco, CA

Shades of White

The gesture of labeling white crayons with racial slurs alludes to the controversial history of Crayola crayons that have had past titles including “indian red,” “hessian blue,” and perhaps the most notorious “flesh.” By equating the concept of race with color, Walker seeks to challenge misconceptions about how individuals are defined by their skin. This work is a humorous take on the cultural demographics of Appalachia, where the artist was born and raised. The crayons point to the way stereotyping is built into the cultural landscape, both literally and figuratively.

By calling out the numerous slurs associated with Appalachia, Walker draws attention to the way whiteness, though often not understood as such, is as much a cultural construction as any racially or ethnically defined identity. This work was greatly inspired by an article written by Richard Dyer titled “Why Whiteness Matters” where he states, “We (whites) will speak of, say the blackness or Chineseness of friends, neighbors, colleagues, customers, or clients and it may be in the most genuine friendly and accepting manner, but we don’t mention the whiteness of people we know.”

Acrylic paint on wax crayons, digital prints on paper. Box 5.75 x 5 x 1.5 inches. 64 crayons. 2010. Limited Edition.

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