Jasmine Dillavou creates artistic and interactive commentary on the American dream 

click to enlarge JASMINE DILLAVOU
  • Jasmine Dillavou
Artist Jasmine Dillavou asserts that the American dream looks different for everyone and remains unattainable for many. This is the essence of the message she hopes to convey through her upcoming one-day pop-up installation experience, Brown Girl, American Dream.

As part of Arts Month’s ArtPop events, the piece will take the viewer through an interactive narrative meant to convey the personal and shared experiences of those reaching toward the American dream only to find their access to it limited.

“It started as a narrative around not just current politics, but the forever politics of working to achieve this ideal and perfect image,” Dillavou says. “There’s so much tension between our current presidency and people who are living here as immigrants, or brown people, or ESL people, or people who grew up with single mothers.”

Having lived in a home that reflected each of these experiences and identities, Dillavou knows that the traditional American ideal of the nuclear family and suburban home are not realistic goals for her. “So I [asked myself] how do I put this into an experience?” she says.

The installation echoes the aesthetic of a suburban front yard, complete with white picket fence (“as literal as it gets, you know?”), vintage white shutters and paneling. Found objects such as passports, books, collages and vintage text decorate the walls and panels, and Dillavou says that folks can remove objects from the installation and sit for a while, reading or simply absorbing the aesthetic of it.

In Dillavou’s recent work — such as The Thread that Binds Us and Pathways & Vessels — she has built altars as art pieces, utilizing objects from her home or from her collections of paper, antiques and scraps. She says there’s something honest about presenting objects themselves rather than representations of objects. “When you’re talking in more poetic and metaphorical terms, everything gets flowery and loose, and being able to just put something in front of someone helps guide [them] through the narrative a little bit more obviously,” she says.

This particular narrative echoes bits of her own story, her mother’s story, and her grandmother’s story, tying the three together so that it’s never quite clear who the “speaker” is, or which voice is coming through, a deliberate move to best convey a shared experience rather than a strictly personal one.

“It’s basically an altar in its own sense,” Dillavou says, “an altar to all the brown girls growing up under this idea that there’s some achievable [ideal] that we can work for.”


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