Art books

Kansas exhibit unites the worlds of art and family into one big-hearted whole

The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of expanding the conversation about how public policy affects the daily lives of people across our state. Huascar Medina is the Poet Laureate of Kansas.

“Making It Work” is currently on display at Lawrence Arts Center. The exhibition delves into artists’ generative processes as parents and how family ties influence their work. The Fpopular artists include Pilar Agüero-Esparza, Alberto Aguilar, Christa Donner, Lise Haller Baggesen, Cara Romeroand Jina Valentine.

The show “brings together six contemporary American artists who are artists and parents who make this relationship visible in their work,” said Maria Velasco, professor at the University of Kansas Visual Art Departmentin addition to being a mother and an artist herself. “It’s part of their dynamics, their design and their manufacturing. So from that point of view, it’s really unique. Because we are used to having to choose between one or the other. The culture tells us you have to be one or the other. That if you’re a good parent you can’t be a good artist and if you’re a good artist you can’t be a parent. So you really have to challenge that belief. And always face the difficulties of existing in this kind of situation.

The show was co-organized by Velasco and Rachel Epp Buller, professor of visual arts and design at Bethel College.

Asked about the artists chosen, Velasco said: “For us, from the beginning, the choice was based on what we call generative practices, which are ways in which we look at the processes, the collaboration, the conversations, the activities that can normally take place internally, at the level of the production of the work, but also with the existing community.

“We were looking at how these processes materialize into a kind of work. It’s not so much the old-fashioned way of doing work, where you think of an object on the wall that stands on its own. It’s about how we work from a different platform to start with. »

In this close-up of “Testimony”, by Jina Valentine, you can see how newspaper excerpts are written in iron gall ink that eats away at the paper. (Huascar Medina/Kansas Reflector)

featured artist Agüero-Esparza presents a wall installation with three-dimensional elements in acrylic and wood entitled: “Multicultural Crayon: White, Apricot, Peach, Tan, Mahogany, Burnt Sienna, Sepia, Black — What Color Are You?” This piece converses with another piece, “Dance & Conversations: Castings.” Both include casts of her daughter’s feet at different ages. At age 10, the conversation is about skin tone. The artist uses a color palette of pencil skin color to have discussions about race.

This conversation started with her daughter coming home from school asking why people don’t identify with the peach color that most white people think of as the color of skin. Agüero-Esparza also connects this work to his upbringing in Mexico. His family had a shoe store that made huaraches. The hue of the leather strands is depicted at the base of the molded feet, dancing at 17.

“From a very young age, she (Agüero-Esparza) participated in seeing and being part of this process,” Velasco said. “This process consists of dyed strips of leather in different shapes and carried this stylistic choice into his work. The story behind this work is intergenerational. A story she has with her parents and her daughter. When you become a parent, that lineage becomes so apparent.

Donner’s interactive work, “A Portal Is Opening”, is also an intergenerational work in which the viewer is projected into the future. It has a QR code and a map that will send you to a location in South Park near a bench, where you can listen to a letter that a child of 2226 tells us about extinction and species that have gone extinct.

“It’s a conversation about sustainability and how unaware we are of the damage we’re creating. The fact that our children will inherit this world and this life doesn’t end when we stop. Having children makes this more evident than ever,” says Velasco. “We connect with a child of the future. He makes these political issues obvious in a poetic way. The piece is narrated by the artist’s daughter. It’s a way to collaborate with your children.

Velasco continued, “It’s not just a sentimental or cute thing. You’re having a conversation with a legit human being who’s a little person, because sure, it’s cute because kids are cute, but that’s not the point. But when you’re engaged as a parent who’s also an artist, and you have conversations with your kids that are very serious like this about race, sustainability, or whatever.

Another conversation featured on the show deals with racial violence against black men. It’s called “Testimony”.

Valentine was inspired by her inability to process the news about the shooting deaths of young black men. The piece is difficult to assimilate. It includes excerpts from news stories about the death of black sons. You can only read a little at a time. In this work, Valentine used an ink that eats away at the paper. Maybe she’s commenting on erasing, whitewashing, or an attempt to suppress a reality that shouldn’t have happened. Maybe she eases the pressure of time, to a point where those stories might not exist.

“Mothernism”, by Lise Haller Baggesen, includes a nomadic tent camp, an audio installation and a book. (Huascar Medina/Kansas Reflector)

Baggesens describes her work “Mothernism” as “a nomadic tent camp, an audio installation and a book dedicated to spotting and making meaningful the ‘mother-shaped hole in contemporary art discourse’.”

In this created space, you can listen to music and read books that Baggesens has selected. The place simultaneously projects a sense of sanctuary, contemplation and seclusion.

The family ties displayed throughout this exhibition magnify the works of all these artists. Everyone creates simultaneously as artist and parent. There is no delineation in the work that needs to be done and the conversations that need to take place. Creating art that addresses issues affecting both parents and children is not just good parenting, but important art. “Making it work” illustrates the power of artists as parents with real depth.

“Making It Work” will continue until July 30. A curator’s INSIGHT art talk will be held July 28 at 7 p.m. This will include a presentation of Epp Buller’s book”Inappropriate Bodies: Art, Design, Maternity » and the first local screening of Velasco’s award-winning documentary “All about me: artists + mothers.”

A closing reception will be held on July 29 at the Lawrence Arts Center from 5 to 9 p.m.

Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own review, here.

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