Monday, September 29, 2008

Exhibit: Latino Latina American Heritage Show at the Portland City Hall

The U.S. border with Mexico used to be about 11 miles south of Ashland, Oregon. That fact surprises a lot of people in the Northwest. They often don't remember the short chapter from their elementary school history books that discussed the Mexican War. There has been some effort by institutions to rectify this lapse in cultural consciousness. The High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon had an exhibit a couple of years ago that focused on the history of the Vaquero (Mexican Cowboy) in the region.

Thanks to Allan Oliver and Pablo Merlo Flores of Onda Gallery along with Sierra Stringfield (the exhibit coordinator) for their part in sharing the beauties of Hispanic culture in the Northwest. They put together an art exhibit at the City Hall building in Portland, Oregon titled "Latino Latina American Heritage Celebration". The exhibit is part of the celebration which includes movies, speakers, events and more to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15th - Oct. 15th.

Two of my retablos (altars) were included in the Latino / Latina exhibt: La Sirena (The Mermaid) and Si Se Puede (Yes, We Can). These pieces are 18" x 24", Oil; sterling silver leaf; antique 24kt. Gold glazed tile mosaic; semi-precious stones on vintage Ponderosa Pine wood panel reclaimed from a 1904 wood mill and formed by an artisan wood worker into a single panel.

Here's something about each image:

La Sirena / The Mermaid
The mermaid is strong and iconic. Her tail swoops above her, creating a sort of crown. The shape of her tail and body combine to create a shape reminiscent of plant life. A horizon line of sterling silver leaf goes through her eyes, reminiscent of sea foam. The mosaic embracing her is studded with sea shells amid 24kt. gold glazed ceramic tile pieces.

I spent my early childhood living by the sea. I used to see pictures of mermaids and think that they were mostly all wrong-looking renditions of sexy sea nymphs waiting for a sailor to fall overboard and float into their domain. This mermaid is different. She represents the ocean as a life-giving, beautiful place but with the feeling that the dark and foreboding side of her world is also present. I love the sea, yet I'm always a bit afraid of the dark, unknown waters around me. (Doesn't stop me from hoping on my SUP Stand Up Paddle surf board). This Madonna is my homage to the beautiful changeable sea.

Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, Si Se Puede

Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta are the co-founders of the United Farm Workers UFW. I grew up during the era of the Lettuce and Grape boycotts that Chavez and Huerta organized. The bravery of these two people to work for justice is an inspiration. I show them standing side by side as equals, balancing the world between them. Red veins travel like roots of a plant around the grapes and lettuce and into the space surrounding our spinning planet. The UFW United Farmworkers symbol is behind them (the symbol was drawn by Chavez's brother). They are backed by a halo/sun embellished with drawings of floral vines etched out of the metal leaf. Their rallying cry of Si Se Puede (yes you can) floats above them.

Unfortunately, Cesar Chavez has passed on. We are lucky that Dolores Huerta is alive and continues her humanitarian political activities. To learn more about Dolores Huerta

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