Pulling the Sun Back – Xa’aa Peshii Nehiino Taame is a site-specific installation by Mercedes Dorame consisting of the three elements of community structures, intertwining the traditional Tongva Kiiy (home), Shyee’evo (healing space), and Yovaar (ceremonial space). This enclosure presents expansive pathways for her community, immediate and extended, to begin to experience and heal from the long shadow of 2020.
This structure imparts a cosmology of possibilities: how we interact as a communal collection of souls within new sites of meaning and re-imagining new futures rooted in the landscape of Tovaangar (Los Angeles). The movement between time and space creates a continuum of Native existence, highlighting vertical and spiraling pathways of existence throughout time, such as that between the land and sky — instead of accepting fixed horizontal linear “truths” of the past. By engaging multi-planar sites of meaning, this project aims to break linear understandings of people, knowledge, space and time.
The artist’s practice is an expression of ceremonial intervention in collaboration with her ancestral lands, connecting to ancestral knowledge as a means of reconciliation and reclamation in order to build radically imagined futures. In this project, Mercedes Dorame collaborated with architect and designer Lilliana Castro to create a structure that invites the viewer to orbit through layers of home, healing, and ceremony centering on an oculus aligning with the sun in a space of alignment of center.
The orbit stands as an acknowledgement of and act of resistance to the forced dislocation of Native people from our sovereign land and fragmentation of our stories, knowledge, experiences and existence. Focusing on the earth’s shift in regards to the sun, the Fall Equinox, and the Winter Solstice, Mercedes examines her ancestral connection to cosmic timeframes and the ceremony behind them. In Tongva beliefs the Winter Solstice is not about focusing on being the shortest day of the year but rather on the phenomenon that on this day we pull the sun back into the sky, signaling the beginning of more light. This lens shifts energy away from negativity and creates a space of positive potentialities.
In this project, Mercedes and Lilliana spent time with the land and environment of the park, orienting the structure in an open space with attention to the oak and sycamore trees, the sun, and city views, trying to encapsulate the layers of time and experience that exist in the space. In an attempt to reorient the relationship to cosmic shifts, we hope to foster a more reciprocal site of meaning in participation with the land and sky. This installation reclaims space and creates a shift by acknowledging the original caretakers of Los Angeles, the Tongva people, and envisioning a more equitable future.
Mercedes Dorame calls on her Tongva ancestry to engage the problematics of visibility and ideas of cultural construction as an outcome of the need to tie one’s existence to the land.
Dorame, born in Los Angeles, has shown her work internationally including a recent augmented reality project with LACMAxSnap inc., and she is currently part of exhibitions at the Getty Center, the Autry Museum, the Fowler Museum and the Begovich Gallery at Cal State Fullerton. Dorame recently revived a Creative Capital Award in 2020 and was honored by UCLA as an outstanding alum of the last 100 years working in Equal Justice as part of the centennial initiative “UCLA: Our Stories Our Impact”.
Her writing has been featured in News From Native California and 580 Split and her artwork has been highlighted by PBS Newshour, Artforum, KCET Artbound, the New York Times, Art in America, Hyperallergic, KQED, Artsy, ARTnews, the Los Angeles Times, the SF Chronicle, among others.
Her work is part of 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 currently visiting faculty at California Institute of the Arts and UCLA.
She received her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and her undergraduate degree from UCLA.