Breanna Olson:

Breanna Olson
Architecture major


I grew up in an american household, raised by a white american mother with my fair-skinned, blonde-haired, green-eyed sister. I remember my first time visiting my father in his native Mexico, where he has since retired, and feeling the incessant glare of the white midwesterner fall from my body. It is strange to be in a place where, upon first glance, I belong, but if anyone were to dig just beyond the surface, it becomes obvious that I'm not mexican at all. One might argue that my father is mexican, and therefore I am, but that only betrays the american doctrine of said critic. The art of claiming a nationality based on bloodline alone is an american notion.

I am many things: a product of western capitalism, a woman in a beauty obsessed society, a fraud who's fraught with imposter syndrome, a biracial person who chooses how and when and where and which race to boast or conceal, and more.

bentonite clay face mask, hair
plastic tub with Mesoamerican pyramid on red sky background; label text reads HEALTH & BEAUTY AZTEC SECRET above and INDIAN HEALING CLAY below
The way one sees oneself is often unique, sometimes disconnected from reality, oftentimes rooted in one’s past, and hopefully ever evolving. These days, when I picture myself, I see a large, solid, pillar-shaped structure, reaching higher than the clouds. I see where my soul sits, in a rectangular void cut out from where one might expect a penthouse. Except this is just a hallway, barren and reverberating, sans guardrails or curtains, with an unobstructed yet distanced view of the world below. Sometimes I see myself there, sitting in a rocking chair, utterly at peace. Sometimes I’m sitting on the edge with my feet dangling carelessly, contemplative and eager. 
I can’t possibly make this structure, neither for this course nor out of desire. Ironically, I have never been one for skyscrapers. I did consider making a model, a prototype that, also ironically, would be about the same height as myself, but when I went to price out my local selection of cement, I no longer felt connected to the piece. Apparently I am not made out of hardware store cement.
Hoping that the solution to this problem would present itself in the back of my closet, I came across this, a clay marketed as an “ancient Aztec Indian healing clay mask.” I’m not sure how I ever bought this face mask without thinking critically about the label or wondering of its origins, but after an immediate search, I quickly learned that it is sourced from mines right here in the United States.
yellowish-gray clay pot with wide mouth
close up on mouth of grayish clay vessel with dark hair embedded in and coming out of the clay