“The Whiteness in Me”

How one art piece won the Principal’s Choice Award


Provided by Jenna Broas

Senior and winner of the Principle’s Choice Award, Ariadne Flores (left) displays her project, “The Whiteness in Me” while standing with Roman Del Rosario, Ed.D. (right). Her project highlights her exploration of Mexican-American identity.

Jose Solis, Podcast Manager

Art is subjective and can be appreciated by many, whether it be in an art exhibit, a museum, a phone screen or tablet. In all of the ways of seeing art, digital art has recently become more prevalent, followed by a stream of artists carrying touchpads, drawing pens and a drive to express themselves through their art. Senior and winner of Principal’s Choice Award Ariadne Flores is one such artist who has managed to portray her inner machinations through her digital art piece, “The Whiteness in Me.”

Her art piece was featured in the Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) Student Art Exhibit and was given one of many choice awards offered at the exhibit also won by BVH students Val Corradino and Lili Mancilla. During Flores’ time there, she would go on to display months worth of hard work and the final product.

“The drawing on the left is depicting a part of the Mexican flag; a [Golden or] Brown Eagle. So I tried to imagine it looking down onto these other [parts of the piece], which is the skeleton in the middle [and the] piece on the right, [depicting] the American [Bald] Eagle,” Flores said.

The weirdest part of the drawing is in the middle, with the skeleton getting out the body to then reach up. That’s how I’m trying my best to connect with [one] of my cultures.”

— Senior Ariadne Flores

She showed her image of skeletal and cultural relevance to different judges and people within the exhibit. This would lead to her being personally recognized by the Bonita Vista High (BVH) Principal Roman Del Rosario, Ed.D.

“It was so powerful in my mind, the imagery of it. Ultimately, it came less about technique for me [and] it was more about the kind of visceral [and] emotional response it had to it,” Del Rosario said.

Though Flores came to produce a final art piece, the process itself was found to be troublesome and was not to be done alone, only reaching its award-winning quality with the aid of Flores’ teacher and relative mentor, Edward Lim. This was done to relative success, thanks to one key influence by Lim and his extensive experience with art as teacher of AP 2D Art & Design, Photo and Computer Art.

“[Flores] is a very digital artist. I suggested a triptych idea because the 3 panels will help her artwork standout. The theme of “The Whiteness in Me ” is her exploration of Mexican American identity. So three panels of the triptych represent her American, Mexican and her current identity. I made a small suggestion of adding a portrait photo of herself with the skeletal hand superimposed on top of her body to give the piece a multimedia quality [but in the end, it was still just] 0.1% my humble ideas. 99.9% [Flores’] artistic brilliance,” Lim said.  

The overall idea Flores wished to portray to viewers was on the split she felt was visible between her ethnicities and overall cultural identity. She goes on to say that the pieces are split in three so as to represent a schism using an art technique called a triptych.

“I wanted to portray how there was some kind of disconnect between a person being American and being Hispanic or Mexican. The idea of the triptych [shows how] I feel disconnected between those two racial identities or nationalities. Even though I did have some experience with both of them, I didn’t feel like I [could say I] fit in with [either] culture. I wanted to go ahead and depict that struggle through that concept of the triptych,” Flores said.

With an impactful message like Flores’, the piece would be something that could be felt not only by Del Rosario but by her fellow participants at the Art Exhibit. At the art exhibit itself, attendees would approach Flores and thank her for her contribution and her art piece. 

“I feel like some people have resonated with the art piece, especially [those] who had similar experiences who come from a different country. [They were] saying how much they did resonate with it,” Flores said. “They felt as if they weren’t alone [since] some of them weren’t able to connect with both their racial identities. [When they told me], that was one of the happiest feelings that I’ve ever had as an artist.”

The art piece not only had a great effect on its viewers, but an effect on Flores herself. She added that in a way, the award was not only a recognition of what she was capable of, but a way to change how she views the piece as a whole. 

“I was pretty proud of myself. Personally, I thought that my art wasn’t exactly award-worthy. [The award] helped me respect the meaning and the process that I did have behind the scenes. It made me realize how hard I worked on this piece and how beautiful it is too,” Flores said.

In the end, the SUHSD Art Exhibit would go on to affect Flores’ view on her artistic creation. Flores states that she drew more than just a powerful piece; she drew an expression of herself and a way to tell her story of struggling with dual identities in her own “weird” way.

“The weirdest part of the drawing is in the middle, with the skeleton getting out the body to then reach up. That’s how I’m trying my best to connect with [one] of my cultures. I would keep trying to find [where I fit] until death, [until] I realize that all I am is just a skeleton. [That’s] why the piece has a title like ‘The Whiteness in Me’, not only to mean how I believe I’m American, but also how inside all of us, we are just skeletons,” Flores said.