In considering the diverse narratives of Latinx experiences and the complex intersectionalities of identities, perhaps art is the best medium. Three students pursuing their master of fine arts degrees in the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture have curated the exhibition “Descifrando Terrenos” to explore the idea of terrains occupied in body and mind.
“Descifrando Terrenos,” or Deciphering Terrains, features 13 artists, all of whom are M.F.A. students from Southern California universities and colleges. They present their works in a variety of mediums, including carvings on agave leaves, ceramic fences and a host of multimedia pieces. The artists are: Alberto Lule, Carolina Montejo, Isidro Pérez García, Jaya Darriet, María Antonia Eguiarte, Ana Andrade, Luciano Pimienta, Lorena Ochoa, Arlene Mejorado, Claudia Solórzano, Deanna Barahona, Danie Cansino and Daniel Mendoza
UCLA graduate students Jackie Amézquita, Luz Carabaño and Valeria Tizol Vivas curated the show.
The artists featured identify as Chicanx, Central American, Colombian-American and French-Brazilian, and those identities play a big role in how the artists depict their relationship to their surroundings through their art.
Amézquita and Carabaño shared how the themes of identity, nationality and culture are woven into “Descifrando Terrenos,” as well as offer insights about the show and its diverse pool of artists.
The term “Latinx” encompasses many different nationalities and cultures. How is that diversity experienced in this show?
Carabaño: All 13 artists in this exhibition are Latinx, a term used to encompass the heterogeneous landscape of people that form part of the Latin American diaspora in the United States. When curating this exhibition, we took a rhizomatic approach. Organically different but connected experiences surfaced from the artists. We weren’t interested in defining Latinx art, but rather allowing a group of Latinx artists to showcase their particular interests and perspectives through their work.
In this exhibition, there’s the work of Ana Andrade, an artist who views herself as a fragment of Earth. Another artist, Isidro Perez Garcia, describes himself as an urban campesino. Alberto Lule uses his experience as an incarcerated person to highlight social and institutional inequities.
What ties the work of these artists together?
Carabaño: All of these artists explore, redefine or reimagine the spaces they inhabit, physically and psychologically. Many look to recontextualize their familial and collective histories and others look to their relationship within external and internal terrains that make up who we are.
The exhibition covers a wide range of media. Tell us about the types of work you have represented.
Carabaño: There is everything from drawings on amate paper, to carvings on pencas (agave leaves), ceramic fences, photographs, video installations with hanging kokedama plants, welded metals and illustrative fabric pieces made from bedsheets. Somehow it all works together.
Amézquita: The exhibition also embraces textile collaborations with indigenous communities in Mexico.
Some of these students are first-generation immigrants. How does that perspective shape the work that they create?
Amézquita: First-generation immigrant narratives explore the negotiation of adjusting and adapting. Their standpoint highlights two vital social spaces as they navigate their identity, culture, language, migration status and social constructs. The concept of in-betweenness in their family histories shapes their perspective and the development of the work they create.
How does the artwork in this show look forward, as well as back to previous histories?
Amézquita: We live in a country where we need to make space for the Latinx community with all their complexities in their intersectionality. Part of my commitment as one of the curators in this exhibition is to promote the diversity of narratives in their work — to broadcast how significantly our cultural contributions have shaped the history of the United States. It’s important to recognize the extraordinary achievements of the Latinx community in the arts, however underrepresented institutionally.