Quinceanera Project, 2011
Performance, Video and Installation
b. February 4, 1977
Daughter to Michael Roy Pierson, Sr. (white) and Elena Acosta Pierson (Filipino)
It is hard for me to reconcile how I see myself with how others see me. I moved to Los Angeles to attend UCLA just a few months after graduating from a northern California high school where 44 different languages were spoken. Most of my high school classmates were also my classmates in middle school and elementary school. Everyone knew everyone. No one questioned who I was.
Moving to LA made me suddenly aware of how other people perceived me. I remember the UCLA men’s water polo team giving me the nickname, “Hot Tamale.” Most people assumed that I was Latina. Strangers spoke Spanish to me all the time. I’ve not only become accustomed to it, but I’ve grown to expect it. The looks of disbelief, disdain, suspicion, and confusion are normal to me now. I feel guilty for not speaking Spanish and it happens almost everyday.
Recently I’ve seriously been thinking about how I see myself compared to how other people see me. How friends and colleagues see me, strangers see me, and how these perceptions differ from who I actually am. This quickly brought me to, “who am I?” This is not where I wanted to end up (or, begin for that matter). This is never an easy question to tackle head-on so, I began with strangers. What do strangers or people I’ve just met think of me? Who do they think I am?
What if you could try on all your perceived identities? What would it be like to be a young Latina girl? If I overlapped my perceived identity with my actual self, what would happen? Conflating what I actually am with what people think I am. What would that feel like? Who would stand out more?
Until now I’ve fought it. Cringing when I hear Spanish directed at me because I know I can’t respond the way they want me to. Fighting to sound serious and respectable so people won’t think I’m a teenager. But, it dawned on me that maybe I should just go with it. Try it on and see what happens. I feel lighter just at the thought of not worrying about it anymore. I didn’t even realize how much it affects me. What happens when you become what everybody already thinks you are?Christina Pierson is an artist based in Pasadena, California. Graduated in 2009 with a MFA from Claremont Graduate University. She recently completed a residency at the Armory Center for Art, Pasadena, California and was recently shown at California State University at Long Beach, Long Beach, CA, Alphonse Berber Gallery, Berkeley, California, Energy Gallery, Toronto, Canada, and JK Gallery, Los Angeles, California among others.