By Wendy Buendia
In our online exhibition, the theme focuses on the ties and connections that we have and forge, and how these ties can be found in the artwork presented through the use of different types of materials and mediums. The mediums through which these stories of family and identity are presented add another layer to the story and allow the viewer to gain insight into the mind of the artist. ‘Un-Weaved Stories’ is the online exhibition where the artists and volunteers at Love for Immigrants explore the significance of weaving stories inspired by textile arts and how it can be used to weave comfort, preserve stories and memories, and display the roots of a person’s culture.
The journey of immigrants has been told countless times throughout history by people who did not live through the trials of arriving at a new country, and the challenges that come with holding on to one’s identity in an unknown land. The aim of this virtual exhibition is to provide a platform for immigrants and children of immigrants to display their narratives in ways that tie them to their cultural identity. The richness of any culture comes from the stories and culture that immigrants bring. The pieces presented in the ‘Un-Weaved Stories’ virtual exhibit demonstrate the evolving tapestry of our lives. Some artwork from the exhibit are:
- “Whirling and Twirling,” represents the rich and diverse cultures we come from but had to migrate for circumstances beyond our control. This piece uses mixed media as told by the artist. The mixed media in this piece help evoke a feeling of fluidity that is essential to the piece’s theme.
- “The Day We Said Goodbye” shows the pain of leaving family, loved ones, and the security of home. The materials of this piece are oil on canvas. Oil paint typically has more pigment than other paint types, and that vibrance of color is pivotal in this piece, as it marks a different time period that can only be recognized through unique, select colors. It makes the viewer feel as if they are in that very room witnessing this personal family moment.
- “Day One” portrays where the journey begins for some refugees who work hard to reach the Western world by traveling over dangerous terrain. The artist uses acrylic paint and fabric on canvas to portray the hardships of the people who cross the desert who wish to have a glimpse of the Western world allure and promise. The fabric adds an intersting texture to the piece, leading the audience’s eye to then follow the line of people trekking across the barren Sahara Desert.
- “Astra Traveling L’Ouvre” is a collage that symbolizes the challenges to overcome along the way that will make us stronger. A digital collage utilizes technology to interpret the stories passed onto the artist by his father. The use of layering and imagery calls to the mind the famous Greek mythology figures to portray how experiences of the artist’s father were seen in the eyes of his son.
- “By Boat” is a wooden art piece that represents how there can be more than one type of arrival in a new society; this speaks to the current challenge faced by refugees. The artwork is constructed from wooden panels and acrylic. This type of paint dries quickly, leaving virtually no room for mistakes. The wooden panels represent the very material used by North African migrants when crossing the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the varying complex layers of the migrant journey, each perspective painting a complicated and colorful image as shown with the paint.
- “Uce” symbolizes the different types of bonds we forge in new societies, challenging how we define family. This art piece is acrylic on canvas. To accurately represent the multi-lingual title, I think that acrylic paint was a great choice. This is because acrylic paint is perfect for layering on paint since it dries quickly. The idea behind this piece is to forget about the lines created by geopolitical issues so that we can recognize complex histories. In the artist’s own words, “the layering process mirrors our intersectional identities.”
- “Latino Motherhood” portrays the family we give birth to, as well as that special parent and child connection. The artist uses mixed media on paper to illustrate the deeply-enriched traditions of the Andean indigenous cultures and the continuation of those through the next generation. An amazing technique used by the artist is that she used colored pencils to make it look like paint. The Andean indigenous culture envelopes the mother and the baby, another thread in this family’s tapestry.
- “Sabiduria” unites the generations and shows that a grandfather’s strength can be the love he shares. The artist uses oil on canvas. Oil paint is widely known to have a special quality that allows the viewer of the artwork to feel as if they are present in the scene that is beautifully painted. This artistic choice allows the viewer to be embraced in the warmth of the gentle and loving moment between the grandparent and his grandchild.
- “Habitada” is the journey of memories depicted in the body and a bridge that continues to tell the story of an immigrants’ journey. This particular piece is video art, which the artist uses to her full advantage. The video tells how the body can be a tapestry through which our ancestor’s influence can be felt, and we can connect with our roots and our individuality.
- “Unexpected Eviction” shows the current moment of how COVID-19 can impact migrants (particularly women). This artwork is actually a photo performance series that documents the practices that emerged during the pandemic. The video shows the inhumane injustices in a migrant woman’s daily life during the pandemic, and shows how we must not let ourselves or others living in miserable conditions continue to do so just because it has become ingrained in our lives.
- “Leaf Mask” represents the exploration of cultural aspects and objects that are part of our roots and identity. This is a performance photograph, and the mask is made from plantain leaves. The artist herself explains the significance of using this type of material for the mask, saying “They are an ingredient for both my melting pot-identity and my Venezuelan dishes. I perform with this mask, I breathe through it, as a way of connecting with my roots while questioning my own position towards it. I take creative liberty from my own experience to interpret the Amazonian-Indigenous part of my identity.”
Our hope is that our Love 4 Immigrants artists and 2021 exhibit inspires people to create their own art, experiment with materials (hopefully sustainable) and connect to their own stories, roots, and express their own message or even raise awareness of an issue through an artistic endeavor.
The Un-Weaved Stories, family, storytelling, and weaving memories virtual reality exhibit now is open for educational purposes so students of all ages can continue shaping this narrative. Whether the learning is about understanding more profoundly the stories of immigrants and refugees, or whether it is about how to use art as a tool for social change, self-expression or whether the course is about anthropology and the importance of storytelling, or if the discussion is about technology like virtual reality making artistic visions come to fruition in an online world. All artists generously allow Love 4 Immigrants to share the exhibit and their artwork for a year.
Please share this resource with educators looking for an engaging and meaningful way to connect their students with a current-day project offering context and complementing existing lessons. Educators can decide which pieces to present to students and which videos to present which allows for this resource to be shared with k-college as long as the scaffolding is there to give context to the younger audiences.
Educators have until 2-27-2023 to share this resource with their students.
We ask educators using this resource to send Love 4 Immigrants photographs of the activities, stories, and student artwork inspired by the Unweaved-Stories exhibit.
How to Access the Exhibit
- Virtual Reality Gallery: Visit Occupy White Walls App (You can find it through the steam app or apple play), and visit the gallery named MrodatL4i
- To view the artists’ bios, videos, and kultura page which has the artwork visit love4immigrants.org
- Email our founder, Maribel Rodriguez at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have further questions or comments.