On View Gallery

Califas Legacy Project Online Exhibition

The Califas Legacy Project online exhibition, offered by the Santa Cruz Art League (SCAL) and Museo Eduardo Carrillo, tells an untold story of Chicano/a/x artists living in the Central California Coastal region. This exhibition includes artworks by Guillermo (Yermo) Aranda, Ralph D’Oliveira, Carmen León, and Amalia Mesa-Bains.  We expand the geographic art historical narratives about Latino artists in the United States that are primarily centered in large, urban environments such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. 

The Califas Legacy Project has unified the Monterey Bay Crescent through public retrospective and multi-generational exhibitions, zoomed in opportunities, streetside art viewing, portable murals, documentary videos, panel discussions, and a Latinx-based symposium. In 1982, Professor Eduardo Carrillo conceived of the “Califas: Chicano Art and Culture in California” conference to bring together artists, scholars, and creative social instigators to take stock of La Raza y El Movimiendo after several decades of political awakening and action. Together with Philip Brookman, Tomas Ybarra Frausto, and Juventino Esparza, he assembled a remarkable group for a multi-day symposium. They argued and agreed that the Chicano movement in all its variety and manifestations was very much alive and needed continued nurturance. 

Now, almost forty years later, the Califas Legacy Project features the art and ideas of our region’s Chicano/a/x and Latinx creative leaders, the elders in the movement.

Our commitment is to secure the preservation of these artists’ legacies and awaken a new generation to the richness of the Monterey Bay Crescent artists contributions.  Theirs is an un-contained influence – linking the powerful social movements of the 1960s to the next generation of Latinx and other artists. The exhibition surveys work from over four decades per artist, thereby sharing their artistic evolution and making visible what has been here all along.

The Califas Legacy Project fills a vacant part of American art history.

 

Guillermo Aranda

Guillermo (Yermo) Aranda is an elder and wisdom keeper of the history and ancestral teachings for Chicano/Native/Mexica identified peoples. He was the co-founder of El Centro Cultural de La Raza, a cultural art center focusing on Latino and Indigenous Art forms. As the Centro’s first Administrative Director, Aranda initiated the Chicano Park Murals in San Diego in 1973. Chicano Park is now recognized by the City of San Diego and the State of California as an historical site.

Ralph D’Oliveira

Ralph D’Oliveira has painted more than 100 murals in California and abroad during his 40+ year career as a muralist. He has done dozens of projects with schools and school children. In 2013, he traveled to Norway to do a mural project in Trondheim. He coordinates his projects collaboratively with neighbors and students in schools. He views all these projects as a way to build community. Ralph draws on his multicultural background incorporating native Chumash and Mexican roots.

Carmen León

Carmen León is a painter and teacher of art. In 1975-76, she was involved with a grassroots arts center, the Academia del Arte Chicano de Azlan, painting some of the first murals in Watsonville. In 1985, she began teaching art in the schools, focusing her involvement with the Latino community and drawing on her Peruvian and Mexican heritage. León was one of the co-founders of Galeria Tonantzin in San Juan Bautista, CA, a venue for women’s art. 

Amalia Mesa-Bains

Amalia Mesa-Bains is a curator, author, visual artist, and educator. In her home altars, ofrendas, and writing, she examines the formation of Chicana identity and aesthetic practices, the shared experiences of historically-marginalized communities in the United States, especially among women of color, and the role of multiculturalism within museums and cultural institutions. Her work is in collections worldwide and in 1992 she was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship.

Slow Build: A Collaborative Exhibition with Borderline Art Collective

Borderline Art Collective is a Bay Area artist group. The members share the desire for a cooperative environment to work alongside peers, the aspiration to sustain art in the Bay Area, and the commitment to community involvement and social justice.

This show is a digital iteration of Borderline Art Collective’s ongoing project: Slow Build, a collaborative format art exhibition. The four artists of Borderline Art Collective have each collaborated with an artist from outside of the collective, engaging in a call and response digital exchange of visual language. The Borderline artist begins the conversation with a single digital image of her own work. The selected artist responds in kind with a work inspired by the first image, to be posted two weeks after the first post. The Borderline artist will then respond to that image with another work, and finally, the selected artist will submit the fourth work, inspired by the progression thus far.

Participating artists:
Danielle Andress (BAC) and Elena Adler
Marissa Geoffroy (BAC) and Kristi Arnold
Amy Lange (BAC) and Nathan Becka
Tescia Seufferlein (BAC) and Anna Rotty

Slow Build Gallery

Initiating Artworks    see artist reflections on the work»

 

Response #1        see artist reflections on the work and view video»

 

Response #2        see artist reflections on the work and view video»

 

Response #3    see artist reflections and view video

(click to enlarge)

 

Slow Build: An Essay by Chris Cohoon

Two of my favorite exercises to engage people with art are Blind Contour Portraits and Exquisite Corpse Drawings. The fun, imaginative collaborations bypass inhibitions for those of us conditioned to fear failure, because there is no way to win or lose. Both activities live in the freedom of ridiculousness. Exquisite Corpse was born from absurdity. Surrealists exited the Dada movement, which expressed the existential vacuum of reason amidst the madness of Humanism’s technological triumph in gaseous trenches. Andre Breton, Yves Tanguy, Jacques Prevert, and Marcel Duchamp searched for meaning from within without the constraints of conventional philosophy. Together, they employed play; shedding conscious thought to uncover the automatic synaptic storms of the subconscious. As a communal exercise, Exquisite Corpse is the chimera of the collective subconscious.

Read More of the essay by Chris Cohoon

The partnership between Museo Eduardo Carrillo and Borderline Collective for Slow Build is not the Surrealist, nonsensical juxtaposition performed as a conceptual work that it may appear to be at first. Given context, the only opportunity for the insertion of chance is the initial meeting between members of the two groups. Everything else makes perfect sense.

In January of 2020, I was involved with Monterey Museum of Art’s Art of the State Symposium. The theme was California Community: Artist Colonies and Collectives Past, Present, and Future. Traditional geographic communities such as Monterey/Carmel by the Sea and Arroyo Seco/Laguna Beach were covered in the program along with the Dada and photographic communities that developed in San Francisco. Despite the disparate seeds from which each community sprang, whether cheap housing, beautiful vistas, or strong personalities, the golden thread that connected each of the historical accounts was charity among artists – not feel good philanthropy, but that ancient understanding that the greatest of virtues is to put the needs of others above your own.

The final presentation of the symposium covered the present and future potential for artist communities. Borderline Collective spoke about their practice as a contemporary collective in the Bay Area (with one member in Chicago). They take on the virtue of generosity drawn from their communal, artistic predecessors and blow it up in the best way possible. Rather than existing as a collective for the benefit of their own work, they developed a practice that is about giving to other artists by creating spaces to promote art that would otherwise have little opportunity to exist. The collective provides a place for art to live which may not be marketable but adds substantial value to the present cultural conversation to shape a better future.

As chance, fate, or providence would have it, Betsy Andersen, Executive Director of the Museo Eduardo Carrillo (MEC), attended Borderline’s presentation and recognized a kindred spirit to that of the Museo’s namesake. Eduardo Carrillo was known for his generosity. As a prominent member of California’s Chicano Arts movement, his work brought recognition to a grossly underrepresented community. He founded El Centro de Arte Regional, Baja, California’s first Art Center, to mentor youth and develop arts in Mexico. He then returned to the U.S. and became a respected artist and professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he often allowed students and even passers by to pick up a brush and contribute to his murals. Like it’s namesake, MEC continues to share Chicana/o art, generously partnering with other institutions and creating incredible education programs. In the spirit of Carrillo, they design mentorship opportunities for young Latinx artists to work with and learn from older artists. And, as evinced by this exhibition, they seek out artists who give of themselves so that others flourish in an act of multiplication. For Slow Build, MEC sketched out the opportunity, unfolded the paper, and handed it to Borderline who drafted a beautiful concept, unfolded the paper, and handed it to others. Generative art, that which creates beyond itself, doesn’t get more exquisite than this.

—Chris Cohoon

 

Initiating Artists’ Introductions/Reflections

Danielle Andress

Danielle Andress is a Chicago based artist. She produces primarily non-functional weavings that investigate our relationships with consumable images and objects. She earned her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA from the California College of the Arts. Danielle is a co-founding and active member of Borderline Art Collective (San Francisco) and an Assistant Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
 www.danielleandress.com

Danielle Andress   “Untitled (When Surface Was Depth)”, jacquard woven cotton on latex balloons, dimensions vary, 2020

Marissa Geoffroy

Marissa Geoffroy moved from New York to the Bay Area in 2014. She received her MFA in Fine Art from California College of the Arts (CCA). Marissa is a painter, photographer and sculptor. She is intrigued by spaces and architecture, and by the philosophical implications of human perception. She is also a founding member of Borderline Art Collective, which aims to support local artists, provide a venue for discourse, and expand art appreciation in the Bay Area.  www.marissageoffroy.com

Marissa Geoffroy   “Untitled (Wood Puzzle Collage)”, wood & acrylic paint, 12″ x 14″ x 3″, 2020

 

Amy Lange

Amy Lange is an artist based in San Francisco, California. She received her BFA in Fibers from the University of Oregon in 2009, and received her MFA from California College of the Arts in spring 2017. She is a founding member of Borderline Art Collective in San Francisco. Amy makes objects, images, and installations inspired by the surfaces of other worlds using repurposed textiles as a jumping-off point.  www.amy-lange.net

Amy Lange   “Crust #4”, flour, house paint & t-shirt, 20” x 20”, 2020

 

 

 

 

Tescia Seufferlein

Tescia Seufferlein is an Oakland based installation and textile artist. Born and raised in the Silicon Valley, Tescia earned her Bachelor in Fine Arts and Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies from UC Berkeley in 2005. Tescia lived in New York City and Brooklyn from 2005-2015, working and living as an artist, costume designer and fabric painter. Although, she is a classically trained painter, her work today is based more in conceptual installations with political and social undertones. Most recently, Tescia’s work has been grappling with public displays of mourning and how we as a society cope with death and tragedy. Tescia graduated with her MFA from California College of the Arts in 2017. Seufferlein has shown work in Bushwick, Manhattan, Paris, and San Francisco.  www.tesciaseufferlein.com

Tescia Seufferlein   “Repeated Reflections Series-M14 Freeway Lights “, photograph, 18″ x 24”, 2020

Responding Artists’ Introductions/Reflections

Elena Adler

Elana Adler (b.1986) is a multidisciplinary artist who portrays social hierarchies and systems. She is interested in how the web of hierarchies and systems breathes and functions alongside systematic and symbolic boundaries, creating exclusion and inclusion. Utilizing the grid as an accessible visual language to discuss complex systems and structures of power; she challenges expectations of material potential. She received her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design in 2008 and her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2017.
www.elanamarteadler.com

Responding to Danielle Andress’ “Untitled (When Surface Was Depth)”

Elana Adler“not consisting of an ever-changing flow of time but a calculable set of things”,
3D sewn felt grid, 72″ x 72″ x 72″, 2020

Kristi Arnold

The main objective of my work employs methods of distortion, transformation, dark humor, absurdity, contrasting color palettes, and the play between positive and negative space. Often, the imagery is overtly apparent, resembling certain icons found in popular culture, science fiction, and nature, while other times they are more concealed. By exploiting these situations through the juxtaposition of opposites, I hope to incite ideas that blur the boundaries between fact and fiction and between beauty and ugliness.
http://www.kristi-arnold.com/

Responding to Marissa Geoffroy’s Untitled (Wood Puzzle Collage)

 

In this piece, I worked from a photograph of a garden that I had visited in Japan from a few years ago during a residency. I found similarities between the colors and textures of Marissa’s piece to be comparable to the imagery of the Japanese garden.

In reaction to Marissa’s piece, I wanted to use the same type of collage method but through a different medium. My approach to printmaking incorporates collage-like methods of printed cut out shapes. I have had this unfinished print hanging in my studio for some time. Once I saw Marissa’s work, I immediately drew a correlation between the color, shape and textures of her piece and my mokuhanga print.

 

Nathan Becka

Nathan Becka is from Kansas City, and is curious about all of the things we are surrounded by and understanding our emotional attachments and their unnoticed significancies.
Nathan Becka IG

Responding to Amy Lange’s Crust #4

 

When Amy asked me to collaborate on this project I was immediately excited. Our practices are so different that could not imagine what we would end up making. But as I made my response to her, it occurred to me that it might mostly be our materials that are different.

The images in my video all came from a collection I have of old chemical industry and technology business-to-business magazines. I wanted to pull out anything that could relate to space or space travel. Deciding what to do with my out of context scraps reminded of other work Amy’s made which involved shredding second-hand clothing into strips that she wove and crocheted into a spacesuit and survival gear for other planets. Unraveling a magazine is not so different from a sweater. I look forward to seeing what happens when we weave it all back together.

 

Anna Rotty

Anna Rotty lives in Oakland, CA. Growing up in Massachusetts, she received a BFA in photography from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2011. Anna has been part of the San Francisco Artists Studios since 2017 after a month-long residency with One Plus One Plus Two Collective. She is the co-founder of Work in Progress, an art discussion and critique group bringing together individuals practicing activism through creative outlets and promoting collaboration and support through the arts. She has recently exhibited with Incline Gallery, SF Camerawork, PhotoPlace Gallery and UMass Amherst. Projects have been featured with Stay Home Gallery, Juxtapoz and Six Feet Photography, and her alternative-process photography was recently recognized by the Denis Roussel Award. Community and collaboration is an important part of Anna’s practice. Anna is currently working as a Poll Worker Coordinator with the San Francisco Department of Elections.
www.annarotty.com

Responding to Tescia Seufferlein’s   “Repeated Reflections Series-M14 Freeway Lights”:
Contemplating Vastness and Worm’s Eye View

 

In response to Tescia’s piece “Repeated Reflections Series-M14 Freeway Lights” I began thinking about the lack of tactility in digital space and perspective. She created an insular repeated space that felt both vast and meditative, and similar to when a thought won’t escape, repeating over and over in an attempt to revise itself into something digestible. I wanted to see it bigger and touch it with my hands.

I printed the piece out and started to live with it on the wall of my studio, getting to know it, changing its direction over time, and moving the light source to see how it interacted with my physical space. I could see the image subtly in reverse on the backside of the paper and thought about an exchange. It bent and moved partly in my control, but with the print being so large, and me being alone, it had the ability to move in ways on its own. I let it dictate the space and I documented how light and shadows played into it, eventually piercing holes through the paper thinking about impact and transparency.

Initiating Artists Respond

Danielle Andress responds to Elana Adler’s “not consisting of an ever-changing flow of time but a calculable set of things”

 

Marissa Geoffroy responds to Kristi Arnold’s “Untitled”, Mokuhanga and colored pencil on paper” with “Untitled (Wood Wave)”

 
I am really responding to the squiggly curving branches and roots in Kristi’s drawing. I am picturing them coming to life in 3D as wooden twig-like forms. I am also planning to mimic her palette in this drawing – the spectrum of yellow to green to blue, the interplay of the pink and purple, and the white of the paper.

My first piece for this project was constructed of wood, and Kristi’s response depicted trees as the subject of her drawing. Her representation of the living wood is very evocative of the material for me, and so for my response piece I have returned to my initial medium. I have abstracted the branches and roots into wave forms, and have painted the sides with acrylic paint, using the color palette of Kristi’s work.

 

Amy Lange responds to Nathan Becka’s untitled video

Nathan Becka Still from ” Collaboration with Amy Lange”, video, 2020
Final response video by Amy Lange: “Mars was a distant shore, and the men spread upon it like waves”
 
Alternative Realities: Tescia Seufferlein responds to Anna Rotty’s “Alternative Horizons” with “Fire Tree”

 
As Anna and I have gone back and forth we have been playing with light, indoors and out. I began to play with the light of the fires, the orange sky seeping into my windows. Anna was doing the same!! I had a great image of this mini palm trees shadow against the orange light; it was gorgeous. I then began playing with my kaleidoscope and the light. It began to create these stain glass windows type images.

 

Final Responses from Responding Artists

Homage to Rohm A: Elena Adler Responds to “Trick Mirror” by Danielle Andress

Inspired by Robert Rohm, who made a series of instruction based installations using instruction and manila rope. I have been recreating my own versions of these installations. The images are documentation of the performative process.

 

Kristi Arnold Responds to Marissa Geoffroy’s “Untitled: Wood Wave”

 

AC On: Nathan Becka’s responds to Amy Lange’s video “Mars was a distant shore, and the men spread upon it like waves” 

 

Sisyphus:  Anna Rotty responds to Tescia Seufferlein’s “Fire Tree”

Tess’s piece “Fire Tree” gave me the sense of being within a space just outside a larger reality. Both repetitive and ethereal I couldn’t help but think of my days spent in Church as a kid, beneath an ornate ceiling, contemplating the stories of faith and forgiveness, but also of shame, guilt and punishment. Over the last few months, Tess and I have both been working with materiality, light and reflection to create seemingly larger worlds within the walls of our home. With the fires and the virus penetrating everyday thought, I considered my safe and privileged distance from these threats, thinking about interior and exterior, finally landing on an image reminiscent of a fiery hillside, conjuring consequence. I’ve been contemplating the human perspective and our impact on the land and the resilience and power of nature.

A New Chapter: Art by Recent University and College Graduates

The time post graduation after earning a Bachelor’s degree in visual arts often is followed with the question, “What Next?”

How do we blend studio practice with practical needs like making a living supporting oneself and maybe a family.

This work reflects the time of transition right before or just after leaving school.

The artists are Jorge Gomez-Gonzalez, Jennifer Ortiz, Natalie Jauregui Ortiz and Karina Tavares Perez from University of California, Santa Cruz,  Narsiso Martinez from California State University, Long Beach, and Ysabel Martinez from the Cafritz Art Center at Montgomery College, Silver Springs, Maryland.

We have also featured these artists in our Hablamos Juntos series of broadsides. The 11 x 17 posters are available for downloads, along with text of interviews with each artist.

Keep an eye out for the work by these artists- you will see more of it in the ensuing years- I’m sure of it.

Seen/Unseen: Stories into Creativity
A Film by by Wallace Boss

 Seen/UnSeen: Stories into Creativity (13 minutes, 2018, Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, CA) is a film by Wallace Boss.  He is a seasoned documentarian whose career has focused on creativity.

The artists in Seen/UnSeen: Stories into Creativity are Doyle Foreman (sculpture), Edward Ramirez (photography) and Claire Thorson (painting).  In Seen/UnSeen you will get to hear each artist explore their studio or “in the world” process and how it shapes an artwork coming into being.  

A project of Museo Eduardo Carrillo,  Seen/UnSeen: Stories into Creativity  is part of a Santa Cruz County wide initiative titled Spoken/Unspoken.  Museo is committed to sharing the art and voices of contemporary artists.

The Spoken/Unspoken countywide collaborative venture was organized by Cabrillo Gallery and fueled by the generosity of a donor-advised grant from the Roy and Frances Rydell Visual Arts Fund at Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, which allowed this project to come into being.  Find out more here: www.spokenunspokenart.com

Through a myriad of practices, artists give voice to a broad array of ideas, feelings, and concerns.  They invite us to think, to feel, to wonder, to question, to act and react. Through art, artists can shout dissent, rally for a cause, incite action, and foster community. Art can inform us, speak unspoken secrets and give a voice to the silenced. Art can offer comfort and a platform to communicate grief, anger, or injustice for those in difficult circumstances. Art can delight us aesthetically and touch us emotionally. It can express deeply personal thoughts and desires. Art can present puzzles to be solved or ambiguities to ponder.

Discover, through Wallace Boss’s film how  Doyle Foreman (sculpture), Edward Ramirez (photography) and Claire Thorson (painting) bring the Unseen into the Seen.

A free film screening of “Seen/UnSeen- Stories into Creativity” (16 minutes) and panel discussion with the artists and film maker will be hosted by The Sesnon Gallery in the Porter Faculty Gallery – Porter College at University of California, Santa Cruz on March 14th at 6PM.  Come early for best parking.  Please email betsy@museoeduardocarrillo.org for more information.

Seen/Unseen Gallery

Click thumbnail to enlarge

 

Carlos Jackson: Reckoning With Hxstory

Reckoning with Hxstory, is an online-exhibition curated by Museo Eduardo Carrillo featuring Carlos F. Jackson’s drawings and silkscreen prints. The works in the series present a narrative that underlines hxstories of structural inequalities in the U.S. This online exhibition takes its title from the first sentence of Chicanx Studies founding manifesto, El Plan de Santa Barbara, which states, “For all people, as with individuals, the time comes when they must reckon with their history.”i

Read More of the essay by Gilda Posada

Hence, to reckon with hxstory, or to “take inventory,” as Gloria Anzaldúa calls it, is the first step towards conocimiento/ consciousness.ii She states that one must first take inventory to fully understand the weight one carries on their back, ultimately so to stop blaming victims for the problems generated by years of racism, colonialism, and oppression. These “weights” can be seen through the accounts that the viewer encounters when engaging with Jackson’s prints. The next step that Anzaldúa poses following the “taking of inventory” is a “winnowing out of the lies”, which is necessary to see what is true, so that injustice is not reproduced in actions that seek to generate social justice. Thus, in this journey, this exhibition replaces the i/e in history/herstory with an x to embrace decolonial teachings, as well as to create a space with the “x” for those whose truths and narratives have been left out because of hegemonic, patriarchal and heteronormative oppression.

Carlos Jackson’s Reckoning with Hxstory pulls from a variety of influences in his life as a cultural worker. Jackson’s extensive background in Chicanx art can be seen in the content of the work, particularly in creating visuals where consciousness and subjectivity is produced. As a printmaker, the influence of Cuban poster artists and graphic designers can be seen in layout choices and color selections. For example, the influence of René Mederos’ screen-print series “vallas”, on the history of the Cuban revolution commemorating the 20th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada, can be seen in Jackson’s use of visual narrative formation and choice in 3’x 4’ prints. Though his prints are bigger than René Mederos’ prints, they still carry the function of being utilized for public educational use to anyone with or without literacy. Jackson’s usage of large blocks of color to define shapes and people is similar to that of Mederos, but traces of his training in painting can be seen in the strokes used in the shading and definition of figures in his prints. The choice of interconnecting moments through iconic images of liberation movements in the last six decades is part of the larger work that Jackson engages in as a scholar in the Chicanx Studies department of UC Davis, and as Director and founder of Taller Arte del Nuevo Amanecer (TANA), a Chicanx community art center.

Jackson’s large-scaled prints demand the viewer confront hxstories of fascism, racism and colonialism that Blacks, Chicanxs and other minority groups have endured in U.S. That is to say, the experiences depicted here are a result the settler-colonial project brought into the Americas, where people were seen as less then by their white counterparts due to skin color, hair texture, religion and ancestral backgrounds. This haunting truth comes to life in his screen-print RELENTLESS/Little Rock 9, where he replicates the fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Eckford attempting to enter Little Rock Central High School on September 4, 1957 following the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decisions for integration.iii A furious white mob of roughly 400 gathered around the school that day along with the Arkansas National Guard to refuse these students entry. Jackson’s print brings to life the racism thrown at Eckford by white women, it is as if the viewer could hear the echoes of white supremacy ringing in their ears years later. Of course, to the viewer paying attention to the current events happening in the U.S., they will find that the echoes of white supremacy have not died out; the viewer will find a parallel between RELENTLESS/Little Rock 9 and the recent pro-white/alt-right attacks happening throughout the country, most noticeably in Charlottesville, Virginia. This is why it is of importance for the viewer to recognize as Anzaldúa states that “Awareness of your situation must come before inner changes, which in turn come before changes in society,” because “nothing happens in the ‘real’ world unless it first happens in the images in our heads.” iv This point is crucial, especially in a time where news is manipulated into alt-facts that deceive the viewer.

For those that feel overwhelmed and exhausted because they have been aware of the current conditions happening across the U.S., Jackson’s work then offers a reminder of courage, resistance and ruthless and unapologetic motivation to keep going. The image of Eckford walking by the white mob can serve as a motivation in the ability to keep seeking change in America until it becomes the America which embodies a true democracy and gives opportunity to all despite documentation, race, gender and/or body ability. The transparent red gradient with the word “Relentless” which appears over RELENTLESS/Little Rock 9, signals to the viewer that against all odds, people of color have resisted through being relentless and unyielding to white supremacy. In this print, Eckford is no longer seen as a victim of white supremacy, instead she is someone who relentlessly imagined an alternative future for herself and future generations. Eckford then becomes someone creating a new image of America in her head and paving that path towards self-determination and democracy.

The reiterations of resistance and the carving out America continue throughout Jackson’s work, for instance, Historical Materialism: Carpooling and Breaking the Fast, 1969, give us insights to moments of power and agency. These two prints showcase hxstories of Boycotts where Black and Chicanx communities organized as a means to be seen as human beings because America has not always looked at their experiences as such. This concept can be traced back to the first-contact of settler Europeans in the Americas, extending into the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the implementation of nation-state borders, which created genocide and institutional racist structures. Institutional racist structures, where migrants, people of color, the working class, and those labeled as the marginal of society were (and continue to be) seen as products in the agricultural chain, the supply industry, the labor force, etc.v Arrival 2, XICANX/Citizenship: Arrival, and Bracero Living or the Concentration Camp recap the life that Mexican workers who participated in the bracero program underwent from 1942-1947 in primarily agricultural labor contracts.vi Upon arrival, braceros were taken to processing centers where they were stripped and searched and then sprayed with DDT by Department of Agriculture. These long hxstories of exploitation and atrocious working and living conditions were met with opposition and ultimately strikes. Often overlooked, but shown in Jackson’s Breaking the Fast, 1969, is the Filipino community, who took the first role in leading the strike against growers in the summer of 1965, demanding that their wages be increased from $1.10 an hour as well as demanding better living conditions.vii In Carlos Jackson’s screen-print we see Cesar Chavez preparing to breaks his 25-day fast in Delano, California. The fatigued Cesar Chavez sits with Senator Robert F. Kennedy, his wife Helen Chavez and mother Juana Chavez. Often cut out of the frame, but shown here behind Chavez and flying the U.F.W. flags are Irwin DeShetler, Andy Imutan, Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz, all major organizers who joined forces with Mexican field laborers in the fight against exploitation and abuse. An understanding of this hxstory allows the viewer to gain a new perspective on unity. Jackson’s images remind many of painful struggles, but many forget that it was not done alone; these communities made each other stronger. Filipinos farmworkers introduced “Isang Bagsak” to the U.F.W. a phrase that means “one down, one fall.” A visual retelling of these narratives allows for the viewer to gain a further understanding that alone change is hard, and if one falls, everyone falls, but that together change can be achived.

Jackson’s inventory in moments in hxstory are a testament that one is never alone in the struggle; his work demonstrates that the foundations towards liberation have been set and that we have nothing to lose but our chains. Before Boycott was used as a tool towards liberation in the West coast it was used by Black America in the south, as seen through Historical Materialism: Carpooling. In this print, the viewer is given an insight into the mid 50s where three womxn and a man are entering a cab while an empty bus appears across from them. This moment which we see is alluding to the bus strikes between December 5, 1955 to December 20, 1956, where Black people were engaging in the struggle to end segregated seating in Montgomery, Alabama. Once again, these fundamental images remind us that defiance can serve as a tool against the tyrannizing forces today and remind us that everyone in America today is of value regardless of federally recognized citizenship. The bus boycotts are lived testaments that showed America that the Black experience was composed of people with families, with histories, with culture, with aspirations and with dreams that deserve to be respected and lived. Jackson proposes that “in order to know who we are, we first need awareness, which comes through education, and the only education that can produce this knowledge as a liberatory form is governed by praxis; action and reflection.”viii The creation of Black Lives Matter builds upon this vision, and reminds us that a reformation of America is needed. To reckon with hxstory, the viewer must educate themselves and hold America accountable for slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, lynching, and the mass incarceration of Black individuals. The viewer must then sit with these hxstories and connect them to the genocide of Black bodies in the hands of police departments and grand juries convening across the U.S.

Remaining in the hxstory of resistance, Jackson’s work continues to reckons with instances of state violence in relation to protestors. Workings of the State Apparatus: Walter Gadsden being attacked, Birmingham Alabama, May 4, 1964, references The Birmingham Campaign, which was composed of a series of lunch counter sit-ins, marches on City Hall and boycotts on downtown merchants to protest segregation laws in the city.ix In Jackson’s print we witness a case of a reoccurring practices, where peaceful demonstrators were met with violent attacks, high-pressure fire hoses, as well as police dogs. This moment is considered to be “one of the major turning points in the Civil Rights Movement and the ‘beginning of the end’ of a centuries-long struggle for freedom.” x Likewise, The workings of the State Apparatus: August 29, 1970, tells the hxstory of protestors in East Los Angeles. On August 29, 1970, the National Chicano Moratorium Committee organized its first public demonstration to protest the war in Viet Nam in East Los Angeles, where 30,000 attended the demonstration in a display of solidarity. The march culminated with speeches and festivities at Laguna Park and despite peaceful rally, the Los Angeles Police Department opened fire on activists, families and children, using “non-lethal projectiles” and tear gas. Police officials alleged that a liquor store had been broken into and that the robbers fled into the crowd. As families scattered, innocent community members were beaten and arrested, during the ensuring riot, police shot a tear gas projectile into the Silver Dollar Bar, where a group of people had sought refuge from the violence. Ruben Salazar, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, was hit in the head by the tear gas canister and killed. By the end of the day police had killed three people and injured more than sixty other individuals. Ruben Salazar’s image and events at the Silver Dollar Bar had become emblematic of the moratorium’s tragic end.xi Workings of the State Apparatus: Walter Gadsden being attacked, Birmingham Alabama, May 4, 1964 and The workings of the State Apparatus: August 29, 1970, visually elaborate the lengths to which the American government and law enforcement agencies were willing to go to crush peaceful dissent and protest. In these prints, Jackson is asking the viewer for communal remembrance; a note to never forget or underestimate the extent to which institutions, local or federal, will go to in order to keep their power and privileges in place.

The measures which the American government has taken to keep its dominance can always be taken one step further, as can be seen in The workings of the State Apparatus: Martin and The workings of the State Apparatus: Ernesto Guevara, Age 39. Although, the viewer will want to move past these works because of content, the viewer must reckon with the distaste and impulse to turn away. While these works bring sorrow, they also highlight the radical power that an idea of different worlds being possible holds. American empire played a role in attempting to extinguish the flames of hope and change across the world through the murders of Martin Luther King Jr. and Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Jackson inserts these images to continue communal remembrance, but also to signal that ideas of a different world will be seen as a threat, and that those in power will use all their resources to extinguish any change that does not uphold their power. But Jackson is also presenting us with these moments in movements to remind us as Fred Hampton said, “You can kill a revolutionary but you can never kill the revolution.” Thus, reflection of these images can serve as a collective consciousness on the way to seeing that there are multiple ways of being and doing the work, so long as it keeps the revolution in process.

Carlos Jackson’s work will carry the open wounds of injustice, sometimes imposed on by institutions and other times by community members that were utilizing the master’s tools to oppress their own community. Each print will ask the viewer to bear witness to the hurt and exclusion, but each print also carries a redemptive quality if the viewer is willing to “winnow out the lies.” This is the nature of Carlos Jackson’s work; it is an invitation to those who want to embark on the journey towards decolonization. Now is the time for the viewer to readjust their own views and seek the truths, there is no direct answer as to how to do this and no direct end because each individual governs a different path. Jackson’s work has done its part in creating new symbols, new forms of hxstories, new perspectives or/and ways of seeing ourselves in the world. Just as the children in Drawing for Xicanx Park, April 1970 that plant the seeds for a new space that will hold their hxstories, truths, and visions of the world they wish to see, we too must begin to carve out the space we envision for Nuestra Américasin fronteras, sin miedo y resistiendo.

C/S

—Gilda Posada

i El Plan de Santa Barbara. 1969

ii Anzaldúa, Gloria E. Borderlands La Frontera: The New Mestiza. (San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 2007) 105

iv Anzaldúa, Gloria E. ibid. 109.

v See print by Carlos Jackson’s Victoria, Texas, May 13, 2013.

vii Imutan, Andy . What happened when Mexicans and Filipinos joined together. From: 40th anniversary of Delano Grape Srrike two-day reunion in Delano, September 2005<http://ufw.org/research/history/mexicans-filipinos-joined-together/>

viii Email exchange with Carlos Jackson on 9/13/2016.

ix The Birmingham Campaign. Public Broadcasting Service. 1995-2017. < http://www.pbs.org/black-culture/explore/civil-rights-movement-birmingham-campaign/#.Waj5R5OGNsM>

x The Birmingham Campaign. ibid

xi Jackson, Carlos F. Protest Arte: Chicana and Chicano Art. (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 2009) 127

 

   

The Chicanx Poster Workshop: A Space Where Subjectivity Is Produced

I frame my printmaking and writing practice as that of a cultural worker…
…Chicanx posters demonstrate that Chicanx identity is fluid, in development, and open for creation, a finding that contests the widespread notion that Chicanx identity is a fixed category that is manifested in predictable ways.  

—Carlos Francisco Jackson

Read the entire article from AZTLÁN: A JOURNAL OF CHICANO STUDIES in PDF format

 

Carlos Francisco Jackson is an associate professor and chair in the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies at the University of California, Davis. He received a BS in community and regional development and an MFA in painting from UC Davis, and he was awarded the Robert Arneson Award for excellence in the MFA program. He has been a fellow at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in central Maine and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Between 2004 and 2015 he served as founding director of Taller Arte del Nuevo Amanecer. Jackson has shown his art at exhibitions throughout the United States. He is the author of Chicana and Chicano Art: ProtestArte (University of Arizons Press, 2009), and his work appears in the exhibition catalogs Mi América/My America: Carlos Jackson (University of Illinois, 2011) and Estampas de la Raza: Contemporary Mexican American Prints from the Romo Collection (University of Texas Press, 2012).

carlosfjackson.com
http://www.artpractical.com/feature/abolish-borders-as-revolutionary-futurity/
https://boomcalifornia.com/2014/04/16/serigrafia/

Text © Gilda Posada, all rights reserved
Artwork and Text © Carlos Francisco Jackson, all rights reserved

ARRT: Artists Respond & Resist Together

This exhibit, Artists Respond and Resist Together, was synchronistic in its evolution. Before there was an election in 2016 there was the Resource Center for Nonviolence in Santa Cruz, which had been serving the community for 40 years and there were a myriad of local artists, whose work focussed on the political landscape and if not specifically, who wanted to support that kind of work, because they believe in art as a social agent for change.

When the election results were confirmed, these 80 artists were in search of each other and formed a group called ARRT and at that same time RCNV was, as always, responding to the issues of the times and was right in the middle of remodeling their building to include an extensive art exhibition space. So, an inaugural ARRT exhibition was proposed, to bring these two forces together.

The Resource Center for Nonviolence, founded in 1976, is a peace and justice organization promoting the practice of nonviolent social change. Their primary mission is to support the growth of nonviolent activists.

The mission of ARRT states, “We are an affiliation of artists joined together by our shared belief in the power of art to effect social change and protect democratic values. Our creative skills support progressive social actions in our local community and beyond.”

For this juried show the theme was: Dynamic artistic responses to the current political climate. Submissions could address resistance, immigration, civil rights, climate change, injustice, etc. and the artists were encouraged to submit work that was in the spirit of both organizations.

Curators:
Sara Friedlander
Anita Heckman
Dee Hooker 

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The Painting as World: Frank Galuszka’s self-refracting paintings through the edges of Borges and Velasquez

Las Meninas

He paints quickly, as if to make sure he captures the thought, the insight while it is still fresh. The very elision of the brushwork shivers with movement, if not urgency, at least a swiftness of purpose. And confidence.

On a winter afternoon the light pools down around the floor of the huge, empty room where the figures appear to be assembled. A thickening of texture, sfumato, permeates the upper reaches of the room. The chandeliers are no longer lit, only a few windows allow some illumination to pierce the cavernous interior.

Read More of the essay by Christina Waters

The child’s pale halo of hair arrests our gaze. For this one frozen moment it has captured what light there is in the room.

But something else is going on as well. Velasquez has caught the decline, the darkening fortunes of this house of Hapsburg. The king and queen are now seen, glimpsed actually, as indistinct, hazy reflections in a small mirror at the back of the room. They are in fact reflections of reflections, since the entire painting itself is an image captured in a huge mirror – the mirror that must presumably stand in front of the figures we see, as they see themselves.

Yet it is our gaze that is required to complete this picture. What Velasquez is painting is us looking at the figures reflected in the mirror. We see him painting – his hand is blurred with movement, the paint fresh and puddled on his palette. He looks up to check that we are paying attention.

This painting captures us, our gaze, the viewer – and once we begin to enter the space of the painting, it closes behind us. We are within it. Inside. Our gaze completes it. Velasquez has not only painted himself-painting-this-painting. He has painted our complicity with the act. He has painted us reflecting upon, and reflected within, the moment that he is making the painting. The process either never ends — in which case the moment of the painting is eternal— or it is one which has become a world, a perpetual Now. It is an aesthetic act of self-referentiality in which the artist painting has become simultaneously the object painted, as well as witness to the witnesses of both act and outcome.

La Vista Totale: a partial view

Just as in the uncanny event of Velasquez’ Las Meninas, the 20-year oeuvre of painter Frank Galuszka invites us to sample a point of view in which our viewing is already anticipated by the image. Each painting of his on-going self-referential series, La Vista Totale: a partial view,  is dialectically linked —by a subliminally embedded iconography—to every other. Much as two mirrors, placed just so, provide a dizzying sequence of curved reflections that seem to continue on into infinity — or into a world that is suggested and yet not fully visible — inhabitants of Galuszka’s LVT network (over 45 paintings so far) refract and reflect each other, yet from possible (or impossible) fictional futures (and pasts).

His interlocking network/narrative invites the viewer to complete a thought, or event just out of view. It is our presence that ignites the organism. Ours is the partial view that conspires with the totality of images. He, like Valesquez, has captured us and uses our embodied gaze to animate his cosmos-in-progress.

As with Borges’ The Garden of Forking Paths, Galuszka’s expanding series of inter-mirrored images begins not with an origin myth, but with a mystery. We are dropped into a saga that is already well underway. We are entranced even as we are perplexed.  Somewhere (we suspect) there is a missing explanation about which (we eventually realize) we are co-creators. What Galuszka’s richly-wrought enigmas intend is up to us, to our own desires and inquiry. And in asking about la vista totale, we are ensnared in its multiplicity of perspectives. It reveals to us as much about ourselves as it does the painter’s mercurial skill.

—Christina Waters

 
Text © Christina Waters, all rights reserved
Artwork © Frank Galuszka, all rights reserved

Immigration: Borders, Boundaries, Beginnings

Sara Friedlander and Jane Gregorius

The art work of Sara Friedlander and Jane Gregorius addresses the current and historic issues of migration and displacement.  What does it mean to belong, and who controls who stays?

Each artist brings their wise and thoughtful hand to their art.  Read what they have to say.

Birds of im/Migration by Sara Friedlander

I have created these visual narratives to honor the courageous women, who left their homeland and their families, often under great duress and traveled to America to start a new life. Most of them spoke no English; and holding steadfast to their hopes for a brighter future, faced daunting challenges in order to establish themselves in this new world.

I began with photographs of my maternal grandmother, born Masha Bornstein, who in 1908 at the age of 15 left her family behind in Petrikov, Belarus (background image) and traveled alone in steerage to Boston. She soon made her way to Providence, Rhode Island to begin anew. She was an accomplished seamstress who designed and made all the clothes in the photographs you see of her. Warmth and integrity emanate from her face. I’m told that she worked in and then ran a small sewing shop. And after marrying, she and my grandfather sent for her mother and three siblings to join them. She died before I was two and by creating this piece, I feel more connected to her life and my own history.

At this critical time, immigration is seen as a national and global threat throughout the world. These portraits can help us remember and reflect deeply on the reality that most Americans, most of us, are relatively recent descendants of or immigrants ourselves.

 

 

Artist statement by Jane Gregorius

Even the noun “immigration” has started to fill me with sadness. It used to stand for adventure, for courage, for the will to survive, the right to a choice. With politicians trying to capitalize on xenophobia, the word has become a two-part description as in “illegal-immigrant,” and it is often said that “that person is illegal.” Really, an illegal person?

I can’t imagine the poverty and squalor, the fear, the political terrors, the life of the persecuted that force populations to escape from the mother country. One of my pieces visually describes the wall and the border patrol who keep an eye on it, another describes the home that was left behind and another the homeless and anonymous wanderer without roots and home land.

At Your Door : The Art of Myra Eastman

“This is my story,” says Myra Eastman in her studio overlooking a garden of flowering trees in a neighborhood where a small California beach town sifts out into quiet-seeming streets of old farmhouses. Her back is to the garden; she’s facing a formidable collection of artworks representing years of prodigious output in which the color and shape of her world is indeed often brilliantly-hued, but the content mostly horrifying.

Read More of the essay by Maureen Davidson

Raised in an affluent Los Angeles suburb in circumstances that seemed protected from any hint of conflict or want, Eastman spent decades unraveling that comfortable bourgeois tapestry over an art life of vigorous enquiry, delving deep into issues she “can’t stop thinking about.” Such issues have driven the slender, gracious, bespectacled former schoolteacher to create with almost obsessive speed and relentlessness a museum’s worth of works so breathlessly immediate they can be cartoonish or chaotic, dripping with gesture, spilling over with ironically cheerful color that fails to overshadow the grist of human inhumanity that is consistently the content.

In works ignited by the successive wars in the Middle East, Eastman transubstantiated war photojournalism into her own stream of consciousness. Working quickly, as if unwilling to dwell on singular incidents, she created score after score of paintings mostly in black gouache on paper, reframing headline news, tightly composing the humans within the action. In such work as “Soldier and Woman” the image is dynamically bisected by a progression of steps that forms a barrier as well as a frame for the soldier’s torso as he reclines with machine gun above a woman with bowed head, below. In “Baghdad Funeral” a procession praying for peace forms a jagged horizon between coffin and mosque. “Woman Behind Wire” stares defiantly from behind a pattern of barbs which almost tear at the surface. The lines carry an urgency and intensity that a more belabored work would not.

The violent acts of human upon human moved from photojournalism into the artist’s life when her sister was gruesomely murdered in 2012 (?). Eastman moved from stultifying sadness into the studio when the trial of her sister’s accused murderer began. “And So the Trial Begins” became the first of 25 small paintings that imagined with cartoonish simplicity the horror of the murder and the events that led to it. The nightmarish invasion, fear, betrayal, brutality of the act are simplified in flat bright, graphic colors, perhaps better to convey or to understand the incomprehensible.

Like the war series, moments are frozen in terrifying tableau. On jewel-colored backdrops, figures often float in relation only to each other as if “real” life is suspended: there is no architecture that can hold a murder. “Ice Pick” crystallizes the horror like a retablo of a Christian martyr—the victim resigned, while “Wall Safe” lays the victim flat as a shadow: the simplified space leads the eyes to a figure escaping through a closing door.

Another opened as Eastman wondered on canvas about the roots of this murder, in which the victim’s daughter was involved. She turned to those posh hills of her childhood Los Angeles in the Mulholland Drive series. Using pop colors and graphic sensibilities of the Sixties, she teases out the possessiveness of possessions, the pose of privilege and its consequence of alienation while a city grid dominates the disconnected humans within.

“Everyday I am bombarded with an overload of human misery and unspeakable horror that pierce my heart with sadness. I can only make sense of it all if I tear off a tiny piece and create works of art that speak to our common humanity and dignity,” Eastman comments.

—Maureen Davidson

 

Text © Maureen Davidson, all rights reserved.
Artwork © Myra Eastman, all rights reserved.

Topologies of Knowing: The Libraries and Laboratories of Amalia Mesa-Bains

The artist Amalia Mesa-Bains has long explored the relationships among women, colonialism, the Catholic Church, and indigenous cultures of Mexico. Some of her interests stem from the experience of growing up in the United States during the 1970s and 80s as a Mexican-American. Her aesthetic vocabulary was influenced by the Chicano civil rights movement in its efforts to celebrate and revive folk and fine art traditions from Mexico such as mural painting, printmaking, and the building of home altars for Dia de Los Muertos and other ritual or religious occasions.

Read More of the essay by Jennifer A. González

In its rich combination of images and objects that are placed in evocative juxtapositions, Mesa-Bains’ work offers a feminist reinterpretation of the Catholic home altar and capilla (yard shrine) traditions, and the parallel but distinct display practices of museums and cabinets of curiosity.

Installation art is notoriously difficult to document because it is meant to be experienced in the space of the gallery; viewers are expected to walk through it, to feel the full scale of the exhibition and also to linger on specific elements of the display following their own interests and curiosity. Seeing this kind of installation art through photographs and slides, whether online or off-line, rarely gives a sense of the three-dimensionality of the artwork, or the pleasure of discovery when looking at a particular detail. Instead we must rely on images made by others to do this work for us. I therefore invite you to imagine yourself in a quiet gallery space discovering these objects the way one would find rare treasures in an antiquarian museum or in the cluttered, personal space of a private home. For these are really the reference points for the artist, who is interested not only in reviving the private altar tradition of Mexican Catholicism, but also intrigued by spaces that are designed to contain and display knowledge, such as the library, the laboratory, and the museum—a place where the muses dwell.

There is an intriguing confluence of histories in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries linking the Spanish discovery and conquest of the Americas, the emergence of new systems for organizing knowledge, and early museums that took the form of cabinets of curiosity or private collections of rare and beautiful objects. Scientific laboratories for experimentation, and specimen displays of flora and fauna in adjacent rooms and gardens were frequently part of aristocratic private homes—displaying to visitors the intellectual prowess and access to global wealth of the duke or prince who owned them. Indeed, the so-called “age of discovery” revealed to Europeans that its previous concepts of many things (animal, vegetable, mineral) would have to change. New kinds of humans—the American “Indians”—also seemed to trouble the minds and souls of those who encountered and eventually killed them. Their destruction and enslavement made it possible to steal the gold figurines, exquisite feather work, stone sculptures and exotic plants that eventually adorned the private collections and gardens of European aristocrats and, some centuries later, public museums and botanical conservatories.

Mesa-Bains’ Curiositas: The Cabinet (1990), which appeared in the exhibition (Re) (Un) (Dis) Covering America, restages the interior of an imagined sixteenth-century collectors’ study, adorned with a Persian carpet, display cabinet and gilt armchair. [Fig.?] But this is not a facsimile; it is merely a reference point for other domestic interiors of collectors across the centuries. Ghostly pencil drawings hanging from the walls depict American Indian chiefs who have long since disappeared. The cabinet contains a motley array of symbolic objects from pre-Columbian figurines to iron bear traps and commercial boxes of corn with the imprint of indigenous bodies. Dry earth and gold-colored stones are scattered in front of the cabinet to serve as the ground for a miniature tableau: three tiny ships (symbolizing the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria that were part of the first Spanish exploration of the Americas) and a handful of figurines representing indigenous populations (all painted gold) are staged in their moment of contact. The armchair is ripped and torn like a wounded body, and possibly stands in for the indigenous bodies subsequently destroyed by the Spanish conquerors in their hunger for wealth. Both metaphorical and metonymical, the objects and artifacts stand as witnesses to this complex, tragic, and unequal interweaving of cultures.

Women’s contributions have frequently been excluded from historical accounts of science and the arts. Much of Mesa-Bains’ work has gone into recuperating women’s histories in order to invite us see feminine space and female daily activity as a site of power, healing and revitalization. Sor Juana’s Library, [Fig. ?] from the Venus Envy Chapter II (1992) installation, stages the artist’s imaginary vision of the private rooms of this illustrious seventeenth-century writer, scholar and Catholic nun Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, who lived in New Spain (today Mexico). Well known for her exceptional library and erudition, Sor Juana became notorious in her own lifetime for being ahead of many of her male contemporaries in the sciences and letters. She even made a famous plea to the male-dominated church for the better education of women—but was rebuffed. Her private collection of books and scientific equipment was confiscated by the Church, and she was forced into silence. The artwork is both an homage to Sor Juana and a revisionist restaging of learning environments for women. Williams College, who hosted the exhibition, had recently been the site of female student protests requesting the hiring of a Latina faculty member. The artist included images and articles from the student protest on her “reading table,” along with histories of Sor Juana, and texts by both indigenous and Spanish writers, thus inviting audience members to consider the links between past and present efforts by women and ethnic minorities to find access to institutions of learning and power. With the reading table, the installation also became a quiet sanctuary where anyone was welcome to sit on the stools provided to examine the contemporary literature and historical materials; if the art installation was a pedagogical space, it was also a contemplative space that changed the duration and the terms of the audience’s relation to art.

In line with her general interest in the possibilities of art to address the injuries of history and to achieve a kind of healing effect for herself after a serious accident, the artist installed the Curandera’s Botanica (2008) for the exhibition NeoHooDoo: Art for a Forgotten Faith in New York at the PS1 gallery and Geography of Memory at the Fresno Art Museum. A “curandera” is a traditional healer or shaman in indigenous communities of the Americas; a “botánica” is typically a retail store where one can find religious candles, folk remedies, varieties of herbs and natural medicines and other alternative healing talismans. Just as her earlier installations staged the intersection of Western European interests and systems of knowledge with those of indigenous cultures, the Curandera’s Botanica displays artifacts from two techniques of healing; the shimmering glass beakers and test tubes of medical chemistry laid out on a shining stainless steel surgical table, and below, the plants and grasses, feathers, religious icons, silver milagros glued to the table legs, shells and eggs, bones and incense that are all tools for alternative strategies to heal both body and spirit. On the ground lies another field of cut grass and evergreen branches, gravel and straw. Against one wall another cabinet, this time a tall metal pharmaceutical cabinet, holds a collection of personal mementos and objects appearing in previous installations: pre-conquest figures, family photographs, glass jars of earth, bottles of perfume and personal mementos. Atop the cabinet stands a statue of La Virgen de Guadalupe. An over-sized Catholic rosary and what looks like a giant stethoscope, both painted silver, are draped over the top and down the side. Taken as a whole, the cabinet appears as a material topography of an individual life shaped by these two discourses of healing the body. It is a portrait—an autotopography—of the artist. It offers us a vision of conflicting cultural and medical systems that are here presented as a syncretic synthesis that gains power from the sum of its parts.

The power of Mesa-Bains’ installation work is to be found in the material details and their rhetorical juxtaposition in a carefully choreographed topology. Staged as libraries and laboratories they occupy a liminal place that invites us to think about the ways these two sites of knowledge production and dissemination are always culturally, historically and politically inflected. The viewer who takes the time to read the available texts and to look closely and carefully at the available artifacts will be rewarded with an astute critical vision of the long history of cultures—indigenous and European—who have been in conflict and collaboration for over five hundred years. From a distinctly Chicana perspective, Mesa-Bains’s installations offer temporary sanctuaries for considering this complex past, for mourning those who have been lost through violence and injustice, and celebrating those who survive.

—Jennifer A. González


Jennifer A. González teaches in the History of Art and Visual Culture department at the University of California, Santa Cruz and at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, New York. http://havc.ucsc.edu/faculty/jennifer-gonzalez

Text © Jennifer A. González, all rights reserved.
Artwork © Amalia Mesa-Bains, all rights reserved