NOW ON VIEW: Historias/Histories

28 Jan

La Sierra University Brandstater Gallery–4500 Riverwalk Parkway Riverside, CA 92515

February 17-March 9, 2009

Closing Reception:  March 9, 2009, 6-8 p.m.

Artist’s Talk:  March 9, 2009, 6:15 p.m.

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Historias/Histories

Artist Statement

“Hermosa Encuentra la Vida, Quien la Construye Hermosa”—Otto Rene Castillo

(Those who find life beautiful, constructed it beautifully)

My great-grandmother, who stayed with us often when I was a child, was a small woman who was known for her exquisite soups.  The family often joked that “Antuca” (her name was Antonia) could take an old sock, leftover pasta, a bone and a handful of beans and create the tastiest concoction you had ever had the privilege of consuming.  She was always hovering over a steaming pot in my mother’s kitchen, warning us to keep away from it for fear of us burning ourselves, but I never could stay away.

Years later, after she passed away, my mother told me the stories that made up Antuquita’s life as young, poor washerwoman in Lima, Peru.  Her sexual assault by an employer who was also housing her, an ensuing unwanted pregnancy, the way she was thrown out onto the street after the employer took her child and how she met my great-grandfather, a police officer on the night beat, as she wandered around that night without a place to stay.  I realized that my great-grandmother, as inventive as she was with her soups, had created something even more complex for herself with odds and ends that destiny provided:  her life. 

This is the basis for the print, El Caldo de la Antuca.  It depicts my great-grandmother with my sister and me, products of that woman’s legacy of throwing things together in order to create something from scraps.  We look over her shoulder and marvel at the history of that diminutive woman who always seemed to have a spoon in her hand.

In The Book of Embraces, Eduardo Galeano writes, “Para que escribe uno, si no es para juntar sus piezas?”  (Why does one write, if not to put one’s pieces together).  This exhibit is a manifestation of that credo, visual pieces of a more complex puzzle of stories that I have been told or have witnessed in my short life. 

Why tell these stories?  In speaking to other children of immigrants, specifically from Latin America, I realize that my stories are common amongst those of us who are the results of the colonization of the Western Hemisphere.  My parents’ lives as Mexican and Peruvian immigrants are part of a larger history of displaced peoples.  Small vignettes of a larger movement of peoples who have always existed on the Western Hemisphere and who, with adjustments to their cultural traditions, languages and religious practices, continue to thrive on three continents.

This exhibition is a visual sampling of “historias”—the small, personal stories that belong to my family, as well as a witness to the bigger, “History” of a people of diverse ethnicities, religious practices and phenotypes who manifest themselves in me. 

There is a second history that makes an appearance in this exhibition.  As an artist, I also am the product of a long line of craftspeople.  The process of printmaking–one of the oldest surviving art traditions—has a long and fascinating history that also spans continents. It is an egalitarian tradition, accessible to many and most commonly utilized to illustrate narratives, to tell stories. 

Originally developed in China to distribute Buddhist texts, it was soon appropriated by Christians to teach its own illiterate people via pictures and later to print religious texts.  Naturally, it would soon make its way to the Americas where artists of the Taller de Grafica Popular in Mexico and the Indigenistas of South America would take advantage of its accessibility to distribute literature and images to working class and indigenous peoples. 

Printmaking continues to be popular the world over and, as a new generation of artists embraces it, we are privileged to witness more diverse and yet familiar stories.  Stories like Antuca’s story: of displacement, making new homes in new places, domesticity, love, pain and memories.  Stories that mark us as individuals but allow us to identify with each other as human:  stories that allow us to pull our pieces together.

The exhibit includes an explanation and photographs of the process of printmaking, a small exhibit of the tools used by printmakers, as well as samples of wood and linoleum blocks. 

A link to the La Sierra University Website with an article by Darla Martin Tucker can be found here

Please keep a lookout for an article about my work in La Prensa Latina on February 27!

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