In the early 1970's students in my hometown prepared for desegregation of the public schools, which were in large part ethnically homogenous. As I recall, students in my elementary school class prepared for school desegregation by role playing based upon eye color, a game which I believe was inspired by the early work of Jane Elliott. We students were divided into groups based upon eye color, and one group was privileged over the other. It was a hard day during which friendships quickly fell prey to socially constructed differences in status and privilege.
The Every Color of Eyes project is inspired by my experience with that game and our current political climate. I was a child who learned about discrimination at an early age, who as an adult lives in a world filled with discrimination of many kinds, and who is concerned about recent events in the U.S. as the political climate becomes increasingly tense. A team of volunteers including Alex Pohl, Jan-Phillipp Rewer and Phillip Wildner and I are working to develop a long painting of circles filled with colors inspired by individuals' eye colors.
As the founder and director of this project, it is my intent that each circle represents the eye color of a person we meet. Rather than illustrating eyes, I hope to use the continuum of color found in people's eyes, and the shape of the circle, as metaphors for our complex lives and multi-layered social existences: our histories, subject positions, cultures, gender identities...the many facets of our human experience. The amassing of multiple circles is intended to embody our common humanity. It is my intent that the Every Color of Eyes project activities, including looking into the eyes of one another; drawing circles; mixing the colors; and carefully placing the circles next to one another will invite us to really see one another, be kind, and to appreciate both our differences and our common humanity.