Bound: Art as a Locus of Social Justice and Environmental Activism
Advisor: Victoria Star Varner
Bound investigates the ways that we evolve through our experiences of domesticity and its sociopolitical, environmental, personal, and spiritual influences. My ideology is based in the writings of Chicana theorist and activist, Gloria E. Anzaldúa, and her concept of the mestiza consciousness. Anzaldúa defines this variously as “a consciousness of duality,” a reviving of the connection between the conscious and subconscious minds, and a focus on the spiritual potency of our experiences. Anzaldúa employs this method of thought in order to combat rigid, habitual modes of social tradition that perpetuate systems of violence on both a personal and global scale. I apply Anzaldúa’s theory to domestic spaces, drawing upon formative experiences from my upbringing to investigate the nuances of domesticity and patterns of habit that simultaneously shape oneself and society. To do this I incorporate traditional craft and pattern into my work, following the legacy of the Pattern and Decoration movement of the 1970’s, which challenged the notion that tapestry, quilting, knitting, etc. are “women’s work” and blurred the barrier between “high” and “low” art.
Many of the techniques used in this project are centuries old. These crafts originate from the native Huichol of Western Mexico as a spiritual tool of protection and seeing things unable to be seen. While they still exist in their original context, they have been appropriated in other parts of the world as Ojo de Dios to fit a Christian narrative, such is the context in which I first encountered these structures as a child. I hand dye wool yarn with various natural materials such as avocado pits, black beans, and cochineal. After the weaving is completed, I apply designs to its surface in acrylic paint, causing a tension between multiple elements of the work: the slow, repetitive processes of dyeing and weaving and quick brush strokes, natural and commercially produced materials, and between folk art derived from domestic practices and the elevated notion of fine art. This work pulls contrasting and supposedly contradictory elements into the same body, as parts of a whole experience, as a visual interpretation of nepantla.
This project forces a different material approach and thought process, bridging the material and the spiritual. Elevating my Mexican ancestry, I give visibility to an appropriated art form, and emphasize the role of nature to highlight the unexpected properties of the materials we exist around everyday, emphasizing the beauty and ability of nature to capture our attention, as well as the interconnectedness of the earth with how we construct ourselves. The act of painting becomes a means of finding one’s own way, the discovery of something entirely new. By understanding the personal as political and confronting ingrained social systems on these levels, one may enact both inner and global social change.