Karolina Karlic, Aspen Mays, and Mercedes Dorame: Unseen Landscapes

Unseen California engages the public land of California as an outdoor artist studio and classroom laboratory by inviting artists to collaborate in research and create site specific art. In its inaugural cohort, Unseen California aims to “see” (by means of visualization and acknowledgement) the multivalent histories that compose the California landscape. This includes indigenous stewardship and regenerative practices – on ceded and unceded land – and the role of settler colonialism and imperialism in construction of these histories. The project will be represented here by artists and organizers Karolina Karlic, Aspen Mays, and Mercedes Dorame.

Photo by Mercedes Dorame.

Karolina Karlic

Through a range of photographic media Karolina Karlic creates work that widely addresses the intersection of photography, ethnofiction, and documentary practices, with a focus on systems of labor and industry, globalization, and their impact on the social and environmental landscapes. Karlic is the founder of, Unseen California, an arts visual platform that serves as a centralizing information hub for arts+science+humanities research that aims to build upon and extend faculty led arts research, education and student work in outdoor California classroom laboratories across the UC Natural Reserve System through an interdisciplinary arts approach to visualizing the environmental and social concerns of the California Landscape in the 21st Century.

Aspen Mays

Aspen Mays was raised in Charleston, SC. She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a BA in Anthropology and Spanish from The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She is currently an Associate Professor and Chair of Photography at the California College of the Arts. She is represented by Higher Pictures Generation in New York, and recent honors include a 2021 Purchase Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Mays was also a Fulbright Scholar in Santiago, Chile, where she spent time with astrophysicists using the world’s most advanced telescopes to look at the sky, an experience that has made a lasting impact on her work.

Mercedes Dorame

Mercedes Dorame, born in Los Angeles, California, received her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and her undergraduate degree from UCLA. She calls on her Tongva ancestry to engage the problematics of (in)visibility and ideas of cultural construction. Mercedes Dorame uses photography as a way to explore, reimagine, and connect to her Gabrielino-Tongva tribal culture and bring visibility to contemporary indigenous experience. The Tongva were the first people in what is now Los Angeles, and their territory covered the expanse from Malibu to San Bernardino to Aliso Creek. They have inhabited the Los Angeles basin for over eight thousand years and were officially recognized as an indigenous tribe by the state of California in 1994. Yet they still are not recognized federally, which means that as a collective group they have limited access to federal funding and no designated reservation land.

Landscape & Life: Speaker Series

As part of Indexical’s year-long exhibition series, curator Gabriel Saloman Mindel has invited artists, scholars and activists to share their work in a series of free public presentations. Each of these speakers engages with our contemporary landscape in ways that reveal the life-forms and life-ways that give shape to them, and are shaped by them. These talks will expand upon the exhibitions by Suzy Poling and Paige Emery (Oct/Nov), Raven Chacon (Feb/Mar) and Paul Walde (April/May) and dig deeper into the entanglements of landscape and life.

This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.