2011-2012 Immigration, Migration, and Labor
California is home to immigrants from countries as close as Mexico and as far as Australia. For some newcomers, the transition to making a livelihood in California has been easy. For many, it has not. The reasons for this are complex; immigration issues have become very contentious in California, especially in the Central Valley, where many legal and illegal immigrants have been hired for farm labor.
CCA chose Immigration, Migration, and Labor as its inaugural, 2011 theme. These intertwined topics are not only found widely in the press, in policymaking, and in social science discourse, but in studios and galleries as well. Many artists are addressing immigration, migration, and labor in unexpected ways, and CCA aspired to ignite discussion based on these creative works.
Margarita Cabrera is an artist who, through her collaborative production of sculpture, addresses immigration issues in a sophisticated way. As a sculptor, Margarita offers viewers poignant work in terms of both subject matter and materials. As a community-oriented artist, Margarita has invented a process of sculptural construction which involves the use of her corporation, Florezca, to share the future profits of her work with all participants of its construction, whether or not they are documented residents. The interaction between labor and migration are truly apparent in Margarita's artwork and the business model employed in its construction.
Margarita was in residence at California State University, Fresno durng October, 2011 for the creation of two pieces unique and relevant to the Central Valley.
Cotton Circles was a collaborative weaving project using traditional Oaxacan loom instruments, structured around trees throughout the campus of Fresno State. The workshops served to re-link the community to some of the disappearing Mexican cultural craft traditions that are vital for cultural identity, as well as celebrate the role of immigrant farm workers today. Five groups of 10-15 volunteers each worked in circular formation around the trees to produce five tapestries, translated in Spanish as telares. The final tapestries were displayed in the Fresno State Henry Madden Library in November 2011.
This community-oriented project introduced original Mexican craft traditions from the coastal area of Jamiltepec, Oaxaca that use cotton as their main material. An artesana from Jamiltepec, Monica Luisa Nambo Torres, participated in the educational aspect of the tapestry workshops. She not only shared her expertise in craft, but she also taught the participating volunteers the ways in which craft productions can facilitate dialogue about social issues within an immigrant community.
In addition to the tapestry production, Cabrera presented an art piece titled Mexico Abre La Boca. This piece functioned as a temporary vehicle, a taco stand, that closed the gap between two very distant markets: corporate and street vendors, which normally exist at opposite ends of the spectrum of globalized economies.
The stand offered traditional artistic cultural productions created in different communities in Mexico, in this case craft from Jamiltepec, Oaxaca. In the same manner that a street vendor would sell delicious tacos, the Mexico Abre La Boca volunteer merchant promoted and sold this locally-produced artwork.
Cotton Circles and Mexico Abre La Boca was curated by Elizabeta Betinski, former owner and director of Overtones Gallery, a vital contemporary art gallery in Los Angeles that presented over 70 national and international artists in over 40 exhibitions from 2003 through 2009. She recently co-edited and designed LA Rising: SoCal Artists Before 1980, the first comprehensive pictorial showcase of Southern California artists working in the region, published by the California/International Arts Foundation in January 2011. Elizabeta is currently engaged as an independent curator while also pursuing a Masters Degree of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Goddard College.
Funding provided by the John and Madeline Perenchio Arts Exhibition Endowment