Art of protest, art of dreams

“The show is really about people and communities working together to both protest the current injustices and to dream of a better future,” explained Greg Deddo, the gallery manager for the “Art of Protest/Art of Dreams: Contemporary Printmaking in Oaxaca and Chicago” exhibit is in the art gallery on the first floor of Adams Hall.

As part of the show this past Friday afternoon, two artists from the Instituto Gráfico de Chicago shared stories about how they came to be involved in the long-established tradition of printmaking.

In this print by Edith Chavez, a woman poses with chickens wrapped around her head. This print is from a series focused on women adorned with chickens, an animal Chavez regards as an essential part of human life because they provide sustenance for thousands of families around the world. To create her prints, Chavez burns wood that she then carves before printing, which allows its unique natural features to shape the woman’s body.

This artist talk was part of the opening reception for the exhibition, which runs from Oct. 29 through Dec. 20. Sponsored by the Wheaton College art department, the exhibition explores the work of over 30 artists from Oaxaca, Mexico and Chicago. The prints showcase the intersection of identity within the realms of culture, gender, religion, tradition and modern life.

Deddo told the Record that the impetus for the exhibition began after Professor Cherith Lundin researched printmaking practices on-site in Mexico.

“There is an incredible history of print media in Mexico, and Oaxaca in particular, has become a world-renowned center for printmaking in the past decade,” Deddo said.

“Nasty Liberty” by Ester Hernandez features Lady Liberty wearing large hoop earrings, a fashion statement historically associated with women of color. This Statue also has a large tattoo reading “NASTY,” a reference to recent political comments regarding women and the feminist movement. This unconventional depiction of the Statue of Liberty raises questions about America’s core values of liberty for all as well as the identity of females living in America

Lundin returned to Wheaton with a desire to bring print media and printmaking to campus. Deddo said, “The show was really about listening, learning and receiving … We hope that the show is an opportunity for students and members of Wheaton to see the potential of art as a uniting force.”

True to their vision, the show also united departments across Wheaton’s campus. Throughout the semester, the Spanish department has sponsored viewing parties for Mexican films to accompany the exhibit, and has contributed to the recent Artist Series performance by the Mariachi Herencia de Mexico which is comprised of young students from Chicago’s Hispanic barrios.

Ivan Bautist’s print features a man holding a lantern beneath a crucifix. His work clearly alludes to pre-Columbian art in its style and symbols and also plays with Catholic imagery. This juxtaposition intentionally provokes more questions than provides answers, particularly about the division between the secular and holy, life and death.

The two visiting artists from Instituto Gráfico de Chicago (IGC), Ricardo Serment and Carlos Barberena, were greatly inspired by past Latin American printmakers, particularly Jose Guadalupe Posada who is considered a pioneer. Posada worked during the 19th and 20th century as a political printer and engraver during a turbulent time in Mexico. Serment and Barberena find inspiration in his satirical pieces because the work comments on the country’s political and social atmospheres in the hopes of provoking his audience to engage through art.

In response to critics who believe that technological innovation is leading to a decline in traditional art forms like printmaking, Serment suggests joining his workshop in Chicago. This event, “Grabadolandia,” takes place Nov. 16- 18 and brings together hundreds of neighborhood kids to collaborate and participate in making prints.

Translated into English, Paulina Camacho’s print, “My Decision,” reads, “Neither the church, nor the state: my body, my decision.” A worker woman stands on a package of birth control pills. The piece comments on how, in many places across Latin America, birth control medicine continues to be restricted.

According to the IGC website, their mission is to “use our art to inform and generate community discourse about urgent social issues. We believe that art is not separate from life.” Because the IGC emphasizes community engagement, Wheaton students and faculty had the opportunity last Friday to join the artists in learning about traditional printmaking through a hands-on demonstration in Lower Beamer.

Artists Edith Chávez and Ivan Bautista from Burro Press, whose work is prominently featured in the exhibition, will visit Wheaton College next week to discuss their work and the lively art community in Oaxaca. “The exhibition,” Lundin said, “traces a link between protest and dreams, highlighting ways in which art can draw people together, invite dialogue and work towards justice.”

During a time of intensely polarized political strife and divisive conversations perhaps printmaking can be a source of empowering unity and hope.

In this print by Edith Chavez, President Donald Trump rides a toddler’s rocking horse and waves an American flag while fenced inside of a rodeo corral.
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