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article imageOp-Ed: Art from Latin women honored at the Consulate General de Mexico Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Nov 15, 2011 in Entertainment
Numina Femenina is a celebration of Latin women in the arts. 35 women artists from 10 nations contributed to the exhibit now on display at the Consulate General de Mexico in San Francisco.
The eight-week installation that debuted on Oct. 20 includes performance art and literature. The four curators that coordinate the exhibit consider this not so much about women in terms of gender politics, but more focused on the ways in which women view the world.
Frida Cano is the curator in charge of the entire exhibit. Ana Labastida, is the Visual Arts Co-Curator. Karina Hodoyan, is the Literature Co-Curator and Martha Rodriguez Salazar, is the Performing Arts Co-Curator. As a team they with the help of the staff of the Consulate like Marimar Suarez Penalva, promote the goal of the exhibit. The exhibit's purpose is to raise awareness to the collective voice of Latin American women and their feelings about the world. And, to provide a network of artists to facilitate more access of the arts to the community. Penalva sees this as positive because it allows public space to be used for art installations.
For each week of the Numina Femenina exhibit, the curators have planned events to encourage people to visit and share in the cultural experience. This past Nov 1, over a dozen people gathered at the Consulate to meet with Vera Costa. She is among the 35 artists who make use of varied materials, some of which include electronic devices and digital technology.
Her work, "The Tear Machine" is on display on the second floor gallery of the Consulate. It is one of two art installations Costa completed for the exhibit. "Part of the challenge for me in this exhibit was scaling back, because if I could, I would fill this entire gallery," said Costa. Cano as curator, talked with Costa in an interview-conversational style asking her questions and encouraging a dialogue with the audience that Tuesday evening.
Born and raised in Brazil, Costa came to San Francisco in 2001 and since that time has made San Francisco her home. Costa said her work is emotional and this is why she likes to create large installations. A working artist for more than 20 years, with her deep feelings, Costa takes on the abstract concepts, like life-death and rebirth, for example.
As her feelings unfold Costa noted that she does not shy away from complexity. She uses any type of material in an art-piece that inspires her, be it fabrics, feathers, metal or even pieces of animal bone.
"I have exhibited my art in many places," she said. "But when I came to San Francisco, I found art venues small and limited. So, I had to re-think and create anew," said Costa.
The San Francisco Bay Area with all its access to technology provided more materials for Costa to make use of. She is not timid in using the electronics to convey her message. A large human eye is on a television screen, as it blinks periodically a tear is seen falling and electronically the tear is captured in a tall glass.
"Tear Machine" noted Costa is actually from a work I did for "Open Studios" (a local annual artist-sponsored event). "The tears are for our times, we Latinos cry a lot," said Costa. Yet, Costa insists she has a sense of humor amid all the tears. "The machine can cry for you," said she, making more tears or less tears and then collects them.
To cry is human and to allow oneself to grieve can be very healing. In 2001 when she first arrived, Costa dealt with the overwhelming tragedy of Sept. 11. She said she could sense the fear, the anxiety, anger and so on. It was something she did not ignore. Her art helped her to face it.
Costa also talked about a large scale installation she did in Brazil just before she left in which she used ashes made from animal bones. The composition consisted of ashes to symbolize mortality. During the year of that installation, Costa was in mourning from the loss of three people in her life; among them was her father and her grandmother.
Costa said that nothing from that ephemeral exhibit was sold. She did the work simply for the artistic vision, her "artistic prayer" as she called it.
The loss was intense yet Costa mentioned that through the art she was able to release her sorrow and since that time she has not been back to Brazil. "San Francisco is my home now," she said.
"My work continues to be personal and emotional," said Costa. She believes that when an artist is being honest about herself then what is expressed also has a universal quality to it. Costa uses a lot of red in her art work. She noted that red is a color of passion, conveying feelings often in a very dramatic way.
She commented that to explore feelings with honesty and courage one must "have guts." "Women's issues are fascinating to me," said Costa "I am a half and half feminist," she said. As to why she described herself in that way was not exactly clear to this reporter. But much of what Costa said that evening was interesting and sweeping as well as honest, very much like her artwork, it is on a grand scale.
Artist Xavier Castellanos, a visitor to the exhibit, attended the discussion and asked Costa "when do you know or how can you determine when an art piece you are working on is done?"
"It is like a release of energy that indicates the work is done. It is something inside that tells me, 'it is complete' even if a part of it might seem not finished," replied Costa. "Some pieces can take a long time." she said, depending upon the vision, the details and how everything comes together.
Cano as curator could relate very well to what Costa was saying because she and the other curators had a very daunting task getting the exhibit coordinated. Going through many submissions that were sent to them from all over, was time-consuming. "It was difficult because initially everything was done via email," said Cano.
Cano was acquainted with Costa and her work. Yet many of the artists who sent in their art-work ideas were totally unknown to Cano and her staff. "It took us almost a year of sorting through the various works and then trying to find a common theme, while not limiting the scope," said Cano.
The exhibit is more dynamic than staying within a traditional expression of Latin America. Pinatas and Aztec motifs aside, the art is very contemporary, using mixed media as well as abstract ideas for artistic expression. "I wanted to show the spirit of Latin Women, in its truth, beyond flowers and motifs," said Cano. "It is important to tell the truth," she said.
Most of the artists are in their 20's and the subjects they express talk about social and political issues like violence, the need for more empowerment, ending oppression and inequality, etc. Often deeply held beliefs and hopes take on very dynamic forms. Yet to make matters even more challenging, sweeping art work like Costa's had to fit within the limited and borrowed space of the Consulate.
And, all of the art work could not interfere with the day to day routine of the Consulate or its regular business hours. Even though it took months and each art-piece submission was carefully reviewed, Cano and her staff are very pleased with the results. She and the other curators are very honored to have the Consulate offer their space and to help coordinate the patronage and sponsorship of nine others to help make the exhibit a reality.
Among the nine partner-sponsors are the San Francisco Symphony, the Mission Cultural Center for the Latino Arts and the Mill Valley Film Festival. Cano is grateful for their support and hopes more such partnerships and sponsors will encourage more events like Numina Feminina in the future.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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