Visual Arts Sophomore Jillian Grant Awarded 2013 SURE Grant

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Visual Arts Sophomore Jillian Grant was awarded the 2013 SURE grant to pursue her project, “We Walk the Line” under the mentorship of Professor Andy Cross. Grant explores her interest in identity, specifically of young Mexican-Americans living in a US border town, through the mediums of photography and video.

See Project Statement below:

Summer Undergraduate Research Experience

We Walk the Line

Artist / Student Website:

Through photographic and video mediums I will explore how living on the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico Border has shaped the identities of young Mexican-Americans who have grown up in that environment. As a double major in Visual Arts and Spanish, I am interested in the Spanish language and Hispanic culture and how they can be expressed through photography and video mediums. Carrying out this project will allow me to build my art portfolio and obtain a firmer grasp of Hispanic culture in the U.S. and Mexico. I will gain a greater understanding of what it means to be a Mexican-American experiencing life in two different countries—and the effect this lifestyle has on the people who live it.

I am compelled to execute this project not only because of the influence of my interest in my respective majors, but also because of my interest in the roles race and ethnicity play in the United States. Growing up in western Massachusetts, I never struggled to find a cultural identity, which differs completely from the experiences of my subjects. I will look deeper into the identities of my subjects to see if they have been marginalized by any facet of society as a result of living in close proximity to the border. I am curious to see if my subjects have experienced racism, or any feelings of angst or isolation in San Diego or Tijuana. Through this project I will find more definitive answers to these inquiries and I am confident that the questions I pose to the subjects will result in authentic, charged, and genuine answers.

I will work on this project for ten weeks, from June 3, 2013 until August 9, 2013. I plan on working with seven subjects who I will photograph and film over the course of those ten weeks. I have talked to all of these subjects and confirmed their participation in both the interviews and photographs: [names redacted for privacy]. While most of my subjects were born in the United States, their parents were born in Mexico and only obtain residency status in America. Their parents maintain aspects of Mexican culture and traditions at home, but their children are exposed more and more to the American culture as they get older. Finding balance between these two cultures raises many questions of personal identity. Which culture do they belong to? Ultimately, do they identify as being more Mexican or more American? These subjects are paving their own paths; they have no one’s footsteps to follow. This project aims to document how these paths are created and where they will lead.

I know all seven of these subjects personally through either work or school and I know that they will be in San Diego this summer and are willing and available to work with me. Over the course of these ten weeks I will conduct filmed interviews with the subjects and photograph them in their natural environments, whether that be home, work, school or out with friends. I will spend at least three to four days with each subject, photographing and filming them in their respective locations. Before each photo shoot I will interview the subject and ask them a series of questions about how living on the U.S.-Mexico border has impacted their lives both positively and negatively.

Each week I will focus on an individual and their story. I will visit and photograph the subject within their home, their neighborhood, and I will film an interview with them about their experience living near the U.S.-Mexico Border. At the end of each week, I will meet with my faculty mentor, Professor Andrew Cross, and we will go over the work I have completed. He will then review and critique my work and help me improve its quality. I will also have additional support from Professor Victoria Fu, who will be helping me with the video component of the project. During the final weeks of my project they will both help me compile and prepare to submit my best work for a potential show at the Front Gallery in San Ysidro.

I am aiming to capture the duality that exists in the subject’s lives as a result of spending significant amounts of time in both San Diego and Tijuana. The interviews will also provide a voice for those who experience the struggles that are involved with living by the border. The photographic component of the project will reveal the environment of the subjects; their homes, the neighborhoods they grew up in, and where they spent their time as teenagers. The photographs and video interviews aim to capture how growing up in this environment has shaped the life of a young Mexican-American. I want to know how their environment has influenced their life goals, and future plans. I will focus on the duality that exists between living in San Diego and also spending significant time in Tijuana.

Another motivation for this work is the possibility of showing it in a location relevant to the project: the Front Gallery in San Ysidro. A show in this area may inspire conversation about what it means to be a Mexican-American living near the border and how it affects one’s life. This project combines my deep interests in both Hispanic culture and photography. Showing my work in an art gallery would serve two important purposes: it would parallel my goal of revealing the realities of being a Mexican American living near the U.S.-Mexico border and it would help me professionally as an artist.

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