Over a simple dining room table, we can have conversations layered with experiences both joyful and challenging. Listening to the Soñe una Milpa women’s stories of immigration reminded of the weathering process that happened to my home in Honduras after my family immigrated to the United States. Peeling paint, cracking, chipping, oxidizing and other wear and tear processes created stratified textures on the interior and exterior of the house. The walls on my home were decaying because the only person who could take care of them, my ninety one year old grandma, was also deteriorating. Home is Tita Melida, and when she’s gone, my connection to that place will also vanish.
Now, when I see layered surfaces, whatever environment I am in, I am filled with nostalgia and memories of a remembered place.
Una Linea de Tiempo
Ninety one bobbins, informed by passage of time, carry evidence of my domestic life shared with my grandmother, my Tita Melida. Her robe, a bed sheet, a curtain and other fabric remnants found around our house, were cut into pieces over the course of several months. As we sat in our dining room cutting the pieces, we had conversations about memories of her life lived in between her sewing workshop, two children, a challenging marriage and a strong faith in God. More than six pounds of cotton cloth were transformed through the papermaking process and made into sheets of paper which were then cut into thin strips. The bobbins were wound with the paper “thread”, each one representing a year in her life.
Listen to some of our conversations by clicking on this link:
When I make paper, the materials invite me into a transformative journey. First, the raw fiber is immersed in water and beaten for a while until a slurry is formed. Then color can be added by mixing the slurry (pulp) with pigment and a chemical called retention aid. The colored pulp is then formed into a sheet using a mould and deckle or deckle box. The sheet is pressed and dried. The result is a new object with different characteristics, but with the same essence it started with. The process is very similar to the one I embarked on many years ago when I moved to the United States. Like leaves in the fall season, dancing in the wind and falling slowly, I embrace change and celebrate my new life. Although, it is a different chapter, the narrative is still part of the same book.
Danzando en el aire. Cayendo lentamente. Una hoja celebra su libertad.
Embedded and embroidered with seeds, each paper fragment is a poetic and abstract narrative responding to my imagination of life after death and hope of a new life. The week after my grandmother passed away, I worked intuitively, forming sheets of paper while listening to her classic songs, pulp painting my way through many unanswered questions. When all I had left of her was intangible, the act of making started a healing process through an experience that was tactile and physical.
The metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly is a magical transformation that metaphorically represents our own evolution towards the mature human beings we each aspire to become.
This interactive artwork invited the SoHE (School of Human Ecology) community to reflect and write about our fears, misunderstandings, prejudices, and stereotypes—our isms. Using the transformative nature of the papermaking process, more than 60 participants each tore an empty page out of a hand-bound blank book. Then, they made notes on this page about the ways they would like to grow and change in their social interactions. Afterward, the sheet was ripped up and beaten into paper pulp. This paper pulp, carrying our (now hidden) collective hopes and dreams for personal transformation, was made into new sheets of paper by members of the SoHE community. Finally, the newly formed pages will carry thoughts from other participants about what it would be like to live in a society free of "isms".
Craft processes and materials contribute in powerful and meaningful ways to the content of artworks. The fine craft of handmade paper can be a powerful vehicle in support of the social values our community works towards embracing. I firmly believe that all social change must start with personal self-reflection, and hope this work will contribute in a quiet andpersonal way for those who participated.
I would like to thank the EcoWell Committee, Dave Metler and his team for their time and assistance.
Mary Hark for her valuable mentorship and encouragement. Marianne Fairbanks for her guidance throughout the project. Jim Escalante and Carolyn Kallenborn for their advise and feedback.
Aaron Granat for producing an amazing video of the metamorph-isms process and Aliza Rand for documenting the project with beautiful photos.
Most importantly, thank you to all of you who participated in the project and made paper with me.
Inspired by lichen growth on ancient stone, I have created a handmade paper topography. Like the slow evolution of rock formations, the work evolved organically through a repetitive process of layered, ripped, painted, and collaged pulp; building complex surfaces that carry rich color and texture passages. Immersed in potent memories of recent time spent in the Colorado Plateau, I worked intuitively, free from the weight of the success or failure of an individual piece. Taken together, these 100 pages refer to a remembered place and acknowledge my deep interest in process.
Si Se Puede
In my creative practice I use color and texture to record the ordinary marks found in the natural and man-made environments I travel through. This artwork celebrates a moment in my personal history. For the first time in my life, I made a decision to publicly stand with my Latino “brothers and sisters” and shout with them “Si Se Puede!” (Yes, It can be done!).
February 18, 2016 was a cold, rainy day in Madison, Wisconsin. The capitol grounds were covered with a light layer of snow. I joined thousands of people who came to protest anti-immigration bills. We called it “A day without Latinos”. I had a roll of bright pink duck tape, scissors and a wide tip fabric marker inside my coat pocket. In a plastic bag I carried seven yards of 100% white cotton duck cloth. The fabric was cut in two strips. On one of them I wrote “SB533 STEP ON IT” and on the other one “AB450 STEP ON IT”. I laid the two pieces of fabric on the capitol’s sidewalk with the help of my Latino friends. Several hours later, the fabric went from a pristine white and clean color to a muddy, dark and wet appearance. Thousands of protesters had recorded their participation in this event by leaving their footprints on the cloth. Months later, this cloth went through the transformative process of paper making: it was cut and beaten into pulp, re-emerging as sheets of paper carrying evidence of that day on the capitol square. I finished the work with a repeat pattern, block printed with natural dyes. It has become a new textile, stained and marked with layers of experience both joyful and challenging; a work that bears witness to a powerful moment in my life as an artist and an engaged citizen.
Antaño means yesteryear, evoking nostalgia and referring to a "time gone by". The fall always awakens memories of the past. I had never experienced the change of seasons until I moved to the United States when I was ten years old. My mother and I used to go on walks and collect leaves that we would later press in between old books. I still remember their stain-like marks, cracks, and colors. Each leaf had a history and previous life. As I layer, collage and dip my work in a vat of color, I respond to memories of a life lived in between cultures.
She was bright and hated the color black. Her name was Aurora, like the Aurora Borealis. Even though I was responding to my grandmother's death, I started making this collection by giving myself one limitation: I can not use black pigment. After finalizing the collaged compositions, I realized they looked like the aural displays we sometimes see in Wisconsin. With a little research, one can discover that the Northern Lights are displayed in many colors but pink and pale green are the most common. Perhaps, it is not a coincidence that my intuition led me to pulp paint them in such a way?
This collection was inspired by the trazos (traces) left behind by something that is in the process of decay. I am still processing the death of my grandmother and I continue to think about the traces her life left behind.