The "paper bag test" was a once common discriminatory practice within the African-American community in which a brown paper bag was held up to someone's face to determine if they could get into parties, nightclubs or fraternities. Those with skin lighter than or equal to the bag were granted entry whereas those with darker skin were shunned. This is one of many examples of colorism--the notion that lighter-skinned people are somehow smarter or better than those with darker skin--that still exists within numerous ethnic communities across the globe.
On Monday, Sept. 6, the Visual Arts Center at Boise State will open "The Paper Bag Test," a collection of work by multi-media artist Francoise Duresse. The exhibit consists of ink drawings based on popular culture, Andy Warhol-esque collages, portrait paintings and documentary-style interviews. The work addresses "the stratification of social status based upon skin color differences, which has continued from one generation to another within the African Diaspora."
Most of Duresse's work delves into race in one form or another, for example her satirical fictional characters Queen Nappy and YoYo Yolanda "explore the context of Blaxploitation filmmaking by addressing racial pigeonholes and response to the complexity of daily life experiences connected with popular culture by bringing contemporary events into play with Blaxploitation films."
Duresse has shown her work across the globe--from Neustadt, Germany, to Guatemala City, Guatemala--and will display "The Paper Bag Test" in Gallery Two of the Hemingway Western Studies Center through Friday, Oct. 22. A reception for the show will take place on Thursday, Oct. 14, from 4:30-6:30 p.m.