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Colonial White, 2018
Charlotte Lagarde

Born in France, Charlotte Lagarde is a filmmaker and visual artist whose work has aired on PBS series POV and Independent Lens, the Sundance Channel, HBO, and been exhibited at MASS MoCA. She is a Sundance, BAVC and Camargo Foundation fellow.

Lagarde studied documentary film at Stanford and has made over twenty films. The feature-length documentary she directed about the Hawaiian surfing legend, Rell Sunn, Heart of the Sea, was broadcast in over 30 countries and won numerous awards including the PBS Independent Lens Audience Award and Best Documentary at the Ashland Independent Film Festival. Her most recent documentary The Ballad of Fred Hersch premiered at the 2016 Full Frame Film Festival.

Lagarde’s short film, Jen Bervin’s Silk Poems, premiered in the exhibition Explode Every Day: an Inquiry into the Phenomena of Wonder at MASS MoCA and has been exhibited recently in Tbilisi, Georgia. Bervin and Lagarde are currently collaborating on a new project filmed in Suzhou, China, titled Su Hui’s Reversible Poem.

Her producing credits include Shaleece Haas’ Real Boy (PBS/IL 2017), Deann Borshay Liem’s In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee (PBS/POV 2010) and Carrie Lozano’s Academy award-winning Reporter Zero, which premiered at the 2006 Berlin International Film Festival.

Colonial White

When I moved to Connecticut in 2017, I learned that the walls of our home were painted with Patriot White and Opulence White. Looking for alternate whites, I stumbled across a paint color called Colonial White. I was stunned. I grew up in France, which has a continuous history of colonization and where the word colonial is used to represent that oppression and supremacy. But in the US and especially in New England, the word colonial has become ubiquitous. And I wondered how can the word colonial be reduced to an architectural style? But then looking at it again, I thought that the paint chip Colonial White is actually making visible the reality of America and its history.

By asking participants to visually merge the Colonial White paint chip with a place/object/situation that embodies colonial white to them, I am hoping to reframe the term colonial in its historical and present context amid a collective reflection and conversation about structural racism.

If you are interested in participating, please send an email to


Digital prints of photo and text collages.

Used with permission of the artist. All rights reserved.

Many thanks to Claudia Rankine for inviting me to sit in your seminar on Constructions of Whiteness at Yale where this project was conceived. It would not have been possible without the thoughtful and artful contributions from all who participated. Thank you to Herb Swartz for printing, and to Jen Bervin for your encouragement, insightful and constructive feedback.

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Colonial White, 2018