Words From a White Latina

I am only a quarter Hispanic, but I identify as Latina. Many of my formative years were spent in rural Texas close to the border of Mexico. Several times, Mexicans who had just crossed the border would appear, dirty and tired, from the brush outside my house. They would ask for help, and I would run inside to find a loaf of bread, and a gallon jug to fill with water. After we parted ways, I would pray that the border patrol would not see them, and that they would survive the desert’s heat. Years later, when I was old enough to understand what the racial slur “wetback” meant, my heart wept with sadness.


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The Sacred Heart Saints basketball team. Uvalde, Tx January 2000. I am sitting front row center. 

When I was nine, I moved to Uvalde, a small town in southwestern Texas. The city had a population of around 16,000 with a large Latino community, about 90% of students were of Hispanic decent. I wore my last name, Solis, as a badge of honor, proof that I was just like the other children. I wanted to be 100% Hispanic–– I was, and still am, proud of my Latina heritage.


This week marks the beginning of a new challenge for many Americans. As the president-elect assumes office, some of us will take to the streets and march for human rights, equality, and social justice. Some will take a stand for inclusion, and others will “fight” for underrepresented minorities.

The country is politically torn in half; however, find comfort in the impending chaos because we are on the brink of a revolution, and YOU know what the foundation of a strong community is––love.

We are in this together.


Warmest Regards,

Danielle Solis


Brandi Katherine Herrera


Brandi Katherine Herrera is a multidisciplinary artist, poet, and translator in Portland, Oregon.

In a coffee house on Southeast Belmont––

Brandi pulled out a square box covered in white book cloth, and placed it on the table. My eyes widened as she lifted the lid to reveal a display of Mutterfarbe: a limited edition artist book, comprised of three separately bound sections and an appendix of back matter. Brandi’s collaborator, book artist and designer Erin Mickelson of Broken Cloud Press in Santa Fe, New Mexico, made the 16-book edition of Mutterfarbe. She also contributed illustrations to the book’s second section. The collaboration between the two created a design that is relevant, yet classic.


Brandi pulled out the table of contents and I stared at the cover. The blind embossed title looked elegant and soft. I felt an undeniable urge to trace my fingers over the letters, and feel the texture of the paper.

Inspired by the German writer, Goethe, and his book, Theory of Colours, published in 1810, Mutterfarbe – translated Mothercolor – is an artist book that explores sixteen colors through poetry, illustration, photography and technology. Printed with archival pigment, each of the sixteen colors correlates to the landscapes represented in Brandi’s travel photographs. The book’s three sections, Natürlicher, Ursprünglicher and Farbe Gespräch are all unique in their approach to color theory.

Intentionally chosen and well-crafted text, paints a poetic story that both seduces and stimulates the mind. The book’s third section, Farbe Gespräch, portrays an imaginary cell phone text conversation between Goethe and Brandi –– a nod to technology’s impact on communication.

The illustrations in the second section of the book are considered “visual translations” of Goethe’s original illustrations. Line work of Goethe’s was recreated into blind impressions, before being color blocked, and then processed through a computer program to create glitch art, which is the use of digital errors to create aesthetic interest. Additionally, each edition includes a unique and colorful lenticular print –– a printed GIF that reveals line art illustrations as the pages are moved.

A reading of four poems from the first section, Naturlicher, of the book, Mutterfarbe.

WS: Your book pays homage to Goethe’s 1810 book, Theory of Colours. Originally published in German, it was a controversial book for its time because it questioned Newton’s theories. What first drew you to Goethe and his book?

BKH: Over the years, I’ve read bits and pieces of the only major English translation of Theory of Colours, which was published in 1840, and translated by Charles Eastlake. It’s a massive text. Most people don’t get too far past the section where Goethe talks about the psychology of color, and I don’t blame them. The language at this point is archaic, and hard to digest. Even so, Goethe’s theories are actually pretty accessible. Newton approached color through mathematic models that investigated the behavior of light. But Goethe wanted to investigate the eye’s experience of color. For him, feeling and sensing were more important than scientific proof. And I think people really connect with that, because it’s human.

Goethe’s work on color was so far ahead of the conventions of his time. It wasn’t until well after his death that theorists, scholars, and artists got over the whole Newton-Goethe b.s. and really started to take his ideas seriously. He considered Theory of Colours his life’s most important work, but never saw it recognized as such in his own lifetime. So, I think it’s interesting to look at the book now, after so much time has passed, and with that history for context. A lot had to happen before it could show up as much as it does now, in contemporary literature. One of my favorites in recent years was Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, which references a lot of Goethe’s theories about the color blue. Another is Rebecca Solnit’s A field guide to getting lost, which I love. No one would (or could) have referenced his work so freely when the book came out. It was just too political.

WS: Can you recall the moment you came up with the idea for Mutterfarbe?

BKH: I had been thinking about the idea of translating a German text — kind of for fun more than anything else, just to see if I could even do it — and tried my hand at piecing apart the work of a few contemporary German poets. But nothing was really turning me on enough to want to finish translating more than a poem or two. One afternoon at work, Theory of Colours popped up on the Brain Pickings blog, and a door just kind of opened up. Goethe’s color theories were already deeply imbedded in my subconscious, so it was just like a little reminder to give them some active space. I started to consider translating it, even if that meant only a few small parts of the full text. There’s no way I was up to the challenge of translating the entire book. Eastlake didn’t even do that. Actually, he intentionally skipped over whole sections of the book, because he considered it to be too contentious. Anyway, unlike translating someone else’s poems, I could, in a way, do whatever I wanted with Goethe’s text. It’s creative commons because it’s so old. And, I liked the idea of maybe reimagining some of his ideas within a contemporary context. Starting at the source (of color) to gather material for a new, original work. To translate some of the text, then isolate only words and ideas in the translation, and then use those words and ideas as source text for my own poems, erasures, and experiments. I get really excited by process. So, it was sort of a dream project idea. And a really crazy one. Definitely a crazy one.

WS: Each one of the three sections of Mutterfarbe has a different perspective to the story. Can you describe those perspectives?

BKH: Erin Mickelson — my collaborator on Mutterfarbe — likes to think of the book’s three sections as a sort of model of the scientific process. Following the path of that old high school acronym, PHERC: Problem / Hypothesis / Experiment / Results / Conclusion. I never paid much attention in science class, so I don’t ever remember learning that. Erin’s way ahead of me. But when she explained it, I was like, “Oh, yeah! Right!”

So, telling the color story (or any story) in this book was also about the two of us solving a problem, through those steps of hypothesis and experimentation. And in the end, it all comes together in this bizarre mash-up of results (the conclusion, which is the third section of the book). The most important thing about Mutterfarbe, though, is that there is no real linear narrative, other than with color. And because of the way Erin designed the artist book as individually bound “books” (housed within a box), it’s also modular. You can move it around in any way you like. Read it in any order. Look at sections, side by side. Compare and contrast. Each time you pick up the book, it becomes a new kind of experiment. I guess in that way, the structure also aims to mimic the whole model of scientific observation and discovery.

WS: You describe the book as a color palette with words, how is that so?

BKH: When I created the color swatch poems in the first section, Natürlicher, I gave myself a kind of constraint. I told myself that I could only use words that I found in the section of text I’d translated that had to do with the psychology of color. Goethe structured that chapter of Theory of Colours into sections that went into detail about each color in the spectrum, and how each is supposed to make people behave, or feel. I started to kind of think of each of those sections of text as paint on a palette. Green paint and red paint and yellow paint, also red-blue and blue-red and all of the other combinations he defines. I decided to start pulling out colors, one by one, as if I was painting with them. And then blended them in order to make the poems that correspond with each of the 16 colors of the book. So, the poem for “Haute Normadie,” which is a kind of yellow-based green, only has words in it that came from Goethe’s text that describe the psychology of yellow, and of green. I used that same process on all 16 poems, based on their corresponding colors.

WS: You have been working on Mutterfarbe for two years. How has it changed the way you perceive color?

BKH: Color is just really important to everything I do. In that way, I’m not any different than anyone else. But, I also kind of obsess over it. It’s almost always the starting point for anything I write or make, and sort of becomes the subtext to whatever story I end up telling, whether it’s with text, or image, or even sound. I don’t know that making this book has changed my relationship with color, or the role it plays in my life. But, it has given me a new idea of what can happen when you spend that much time thinking about and working on any single project. If I were being totally honest, I’d say that I don’t really ever want to see those 16 colors again. Ha. But they’re a part of my story now. I’m glad they get to live in this book so that I don’t have to carry them around any longer.

WS: The book incorporates technology through the images and the writing. Why was that important for yourself and your collaborator, Erin, to include in the design and layout of the book?

BKH: I think that as a translator, it’s important to look at the tools we’re using today to talk to each other. Using our smart phones, and buggy technology, which breaks down so much of the time, in really significant ways. We talk to each other across great distances (or across a counter) with our phones and our laptops as go-betweens. But also as meaning-makers, and as companions. It felt like I needed to address that somehow in the book, and in how I chose to translate the text. A lot of it was done in the most traditional sense — word by word, with only a dictionary and my own knowledge of German. But, I also used the Google Translate app’s “Word Lens” feature to experiment with “smart translation” technology in the second section of the book. And I used Google’s automatic language detection technology in the conversation I made up between Goethe and myself in the third section. So much of that Google translation wasn’t accurate, but I kept it, anyway — flaws and all, because a lot of it was really beautiful and poetic in its error.

Erin folded technology into the construction and design of the book, too. The square shape of the color swatches and photographs, and of the book and the box it’s housed in, is meant to reference the pixel. But also this whole nostalgic, Instagram square format of photography everyone’s so obsessed with. We’re both a little bit tired of the limitations of that, so it’s kind of like our own little dig at social media.

WS: In the third section of the book you have an imaginative text conversation with Goethe about color, while watching the cult classic film, The Holy Mountain. How does this comment on modern technology?

BKH: Translating someone who is no longer alive is like trying to talk to the dead. You can’t just text Goethe and be like, “Hey, what were you thinking when you said that one really fucked up thing? Why did you choose that word? What did you mean by this or this or that?”. You just can’t. And it’s really frustrating. You have to sort of entertain yourself by imagining that you could have a real-deal conversation. So that’s what I did.

I had been watching The Holy Mountain, which is so outrageous and gorgeous and I guess I just figured it would be something Goethe would have loved. So, I thought: what if I watched it with him? And: what if we had a dialog about color in the film, while we watched it? Because no one calls each other any more, I thought it also made sense to have the conversation via text, using our imaginary iPhones. So, the entire third section of the book is a 13-foot long leporello-bound text convo with Goethe, complete with screen caps of the film. I like to tell myself that he would have really gotten into that.

WS: You contributed all, with the exception of two, of the photos in the book. The photos were taken during your travels of the US and France, and were used to select the color palette of Mutterfarbe. How much did geography contribute to the color story?

BKH: There are 16 colors in Mutterfarbe. And all 16 are carried throughout the entire book, including the back matter (appendixes). Each of those colors was pulled from the landscapes and build environments I was traveling through and living in during an extended period between 2014-2015. Throughout the American Northwest, Midwest, and in Normandy and Burgundy, France. Each of the colors in the book, then, takes its name from some thing or another in that particular place (Omaha, Black Squirrel, Milk Bath, Tickle Creek, Confiture, etc.). In this way, they form a kind of place-based narrative of their own, even if it’s loose. I doubt anyone would really pick up on that. But it was a process that mattered to me, because there isn’t otherwise much of my own story in the book. Not personally, not really. So, it was kind of my way of inserting myself more overtly into a story that’s about color, first. And about Goethe, and language, second/third.

WS: What was your biggest influence throughout the books construction?

BKH: I think just the act of living without much, and a lot of travel. I was at an artist residency in France at the time, and traveling both before and after that, and I basically lived out of one duffle bag for almost a year. Living with so little, and moving so frequently from place to place, at the mercy of other people and their spaces, was really liberating (and eye opening). It forced me to focus more acutely on my own need for stuff, and the value of things. Color, and language, started to become all that I needed. One morning, I had a fantasy about throwing my duffle bag into the creek outside the mill we were living in, because I just couldn’t imagine wanting or needing any of the shit it contained. I didn’t want to carry it around with me anymore. It was too heavy, both literally and figuratively.

If someone had thrown my book in the creek? I’d have drowned trying to save it.

WS: Yale has just purchased one of the 16 books in the limited edition for the Faber Birren Collection on Color, where a first edition of Goethe’s book also lives. Scholars from around the world will be studying and enjoying your artistry. What is next for you?

BKH: Yale was really exciting news. I think Erin and I both cried and then drank a lot of whiskey. It was sort of hard to believe, and still is. That Mutterfarbe has a permanent home next to all of these amazing textiles, artifacts, artworks, and rare books on color — including Goethe’s, and a first edition of Newton’s — is pretty wild. It’s an honor. I have no idea what happens next. The hope is that other collections and archives will acquire a book, too, until all 16 have been placed. And to also show the book in more galleries, and museums. But, if Yale was the only one, I would have absolutely nothing to complain about.

WS: Post election season there are a lot of people struggling to find motivation. Can you recall a time in your life that gave you the courage to create?

BKH: My sister’s death in 1984, when I was 7, and she was just 9. I don’t really make anything, write anything, that isn’t because of her, for her. Things influence me, and even play important roles (like color). But that comes, and goes. Nothing, really, matters much, other than her. She has given me the courage to make things and then tear them up and then put them back together again, my entire life. It’s because of her that I do any of it at all.

Mutterfarbe is an object of beauty––a color palette of words. Receive a virtual walk-through and explanation of the book here, and visit Brandi’s personal website to stay up to date with all of her upcoming work.


“August to August”


The photo book, “August to August,” that features Joy Fitzgerald and her family is now available! Join them this Friday, October 14, at 6:30pm for the launch party at the photo house, Ransom Limited’s studio. While there you can pick up a copy of the book, mingle with the team, and enjoy a glass of wine. If you can’t make it to the event, not to worry, visit http://shop.ransomltd.com/shop/august-to-august, and reserve your copy online.

Ransom Limited is located at 2505 SE 11th Ave, Suite 273 Portland, Oregon.

Joy Fitzgerald


Originally from the Bay area, Joy Fitzgerald is never quite satisfied with what she is producing, and maybe that is why her work is so respected. Working primarily in black and white, her illustrations are never tired or overworked, but rather please the eye with their subtle intricacy.

At a young age, Joy was interested in typography. Peering over her Dad’s architectural notebooks from college and studying his signature was a hobby of hers. To this day, she is unsure of what her true handwriting may be, having emulated so many others’ handwriting throughout the course of her life.

Although Joy was always interested in the arts, she was not encouraged to pursue an artistic career. “Coming from a Korean family, you don’t do art for a living. I had to quell my interest because it simply couldn’t come to fruition.” It was at 24 years old, while working in a cubicle that Joy began blogging her illustrations. “It was supposed to feel like someone was peeking into my sketchbook.” The blog took off, and it gave Joy the confidence to begin illustrating more. People began contacting her for jobs, and she was shocked that she could get paid for her illustrations; however, the idea of leaving her corporate job downtown was still very intimidating. Not wanting to have any regrets in her life, Joy eventually quit her job and began freelancing full-time.

Joy’s first job right after leaving the corporate world was with Kinfolk–– a cultural lifestyle magazine that opened a Portland office in 2013. Her delicate illustrations and calligraphy were featured in several issues, which led to a cult-like following of her amongst bloggers and artists. But, it was after the birth of her son, James “Nunu” (a nickname derived from his Korean name) that her artistic self blossomed. “Being a mother has expanded my idea of what it means to be creative.” Her most cherished creative moments now involve the both of them, in which she can watch him experiment. Her son’s childlike, unselfconscious painting has led her to see the beauty in possessing a lack of constraint. This collaborative process between mother and son creates a poetic balance between his art and her own.

Joy and Nunu’s collaborative art has brought many inquiries for the Fitzgerald family to post more photos of their life online. Wanting to maintain Nunu’s privacy on social media they decided to create a book. “August to August”, published by Ransom Limited Editions, will feature unseen photographs of the Fitzgerald family all shot by Joy’s husband James. The book will be released at the Tokyo Art Book Fair this September, and will include photos of their travels to Paris, Tokyo, Canada, and Colorado, as well as some photographs at their home in Portland. The book’s official release is in October.

Upcoming Podcast EP. 1


From Left: Jordan Smith, and Ginger Craft flashing their ovary sign.


In Episode one I talk with Ladies’ Night co-founders, Jordan Smith, and Ginger Craft. Created in 2014, the quarterly event is a platform for women in technology to come together, and connect with one another. These women have brought girl power to the tech community.

Episode one will air on the 10th of August, 2016.

Sasha Davies


Last week, I explored the wonderful world of cheese through the eyes of a monger, Sasha Davies of Cyril’s & Clay Pigeon Winery in Southeast Portland. I was so excited to visit her restaurant because I have always been a glutton for cheese. I will gladly sit and munch away at a wedge without anything but pure ecstasy written upon my face. While tasting the earthy landscape of a French goat cheese, I rifled through Sasha’s index of knowledge, and received insight into the life of a cheese monger.

Sasha began working in cheese after 7 years as a project manager in financial services. She wound up getting a job at a cheese center in New York City on the outskirts of Hells Kitchen. “They were importing cheese from around the world––caring for it, aging it, and selling it.” It was there that she began an internship with a woman to help in affinage. “When I accepted the position I had no idea what affinage was, but I wasn’t going to tell anyone that” –affinage is the French word for aging cheese. She worked in what the center called cheese caves that incubate the cheeses, and was swept away by the process. She loves that by tweaking a fairly “basic” recipe thousands of radically different tasting cheeses can evolve. After that first year of discovery, she was still unsure of the road ahead of her, and wondered if she could get the general public interested in artisanal cheese as well. With her love for radio journalism, and telling stories, she set out to create a podcast, Cheese By Hand. Roaming across the country interviewing farmers, and mongers she spent hours arranging the gathered information, and sharing stories with the world––but, originally hailing from California, she missed the west coast. With Portland’s proximity to grapes, and Sasha’s husband dreaming of winemaking, the two of them packed up, and moved west.

In an industry that is dominated by men, Cyril’s is a breath of fresh air in Kitchen Culture. The first kitchen she experienced was akin to a frat house that she was unsure she had the guff to handle. She didn’t want to “act like a man” to survive in the kitchen. Femininity shouldn’t be a crime; the focus should be on the food. “I never thought I would work in a kitchen, let alone run one.” In the end, her love for food trumped all, and the by-product is a restaurant ran on creativity, love, and passion.

When asked if she likes making cheese, Sasha laughed and replied, “I am much more Ramona Quimby, than Martha Stewart. You can make edible cheese no problem, but good cheese is really hard. It is so much more meticulous than you would think.” The comparison between herself, and the fictional character is pointed. Ramona who is a rambunctious girl with hair slightly tousled, and a strong imagination is staring back at me through Sasha’s eyes.

Cyril’s & Clay Pigeon Winery is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. This summer they will be releasing five new wines, and will host a summer concert series.

Critter Pierce


Critter Pierce is the costume designer of the TNT network show The Librarians, which first aired in 2014.

We chatted recently in a Portland coffee house­­––

Pierce’s enthusiasm for her craft is magnetic. Having navigated herself across the television and film industry for the past 15 years, she has a lot to be proud of. She laughs when I compliment her, and tells me about The Librarians recent wrap on Season 2. “The first season, we were just getting to know all of the characters, and developing them, and in the second season, I was able to dive deeper and create more dimension within the characters. It was a really collaborative and rewarding season for the cast and crew.”

Growing up in Miami, Fla., Pierce taught herself to sew at an early age. She created outfits for her dolls, and experimented on an old sewing machine that had been gifted to her mother as a wedding present. Later, she would sew dresses for her high school formals––going to a college prep school ensured that there were many. “There weren’t very many liberal arts classes offered, but there was Home-Ec––we of course had to learn to cook and sew.”

It wasn’t until a co-worker suggested that she try out costume design that she made the decision to enroll in the theater department at the University of Florida. “You would think that fashion design and costume design go hand-in-hand, but they don’t. Costume design, for me, is an entirely different thing.”

As Critter fidgets with the bangles on her arms and takes another sip of coffee, I listen to her explain her design process, and how she dives into the characters she develops. She not only looks at what clothing says about a person, but how that clothing embodies their personality and nature. Critter pauses for a moment, after I ask about her favorite part of the design process, and then breaks into a wide grin. “I am especially interested in how a person wears their clothes, and how they are worn in. Like a hat that you can tell is worn everyday, as well as how it is worn. If you look closely you can tell where it is taken on and off, because of the oil spot left from the fingers. I like to pay attention to the sweat rings that may be on the brim, and the grime that might be built up—the aging of clothing, or aging in general.” She looks around and points out a wall in the distance, and the patina built up from years of wear and tear.

Her attention to detail is remarkable. I can feel my own perspective on clothing changing almost instantaneously. All the sudden, I, too, notice the faded fedora, and not just for what it is, or who is wearing it, but the details of its wear. I look at what Critter is wearing. The colors are bright; her skirt is bouncy and her jewelry bold. I ask her about her personal style, and she doesn’t hesitate to say, “I try not to take anything too seriously, and to be really playful with my clothing. I really like things that make noise so that I can hear my own movement. Like, if I have buckles on my shoes and they are a little loose, and you can hear them jingle with every step, I love that.”

The safety pin in her ear and her pink nail polish juxtapose old-school punk with girly tradition. I look down at my nails and I have the sudden urge to chip the polish, and cut my hair. Critter’s unabashed style has me wondering if I have been suppressing my true self these past 10 years. After a few more minutes discussing Portland fashion, and watching passers-by, we say our goodbyes.

A week later, I pick up the photos I took at our meeting. Upon glancing at the negatives, I again grow nostalgic. I realize that this feeling, this je ne sais quoi moment, is due to Critter. Completely unassuming and transparently passionate, she pours life into everyday fashion, and creates costumes that tell a story.

I put down the photos, put on my headphones and blast the Ramones.