The growing issue of Mexican immigration and labor in the U.S.United States has as much importance in the Wood River Valley as it does anywhere in the country. In an effort to understand and celebrate the vastness and poignancy of contemporary Mexican art, the Sun Valley Center for the Arts visual arts curator Courtney Gilbert has curated a multidisciplinary project, which that responds to the relationship between Mexican workers and the U.S. positions on immigration and labor issues. The show opens on Friday, Dec. 14, and will continue through Saturday, Feb. 9, at The Center in Ketchum.
"It started as a survey," Gilbert said. "I was interested in Chicano art in the ''60s and ''70s, which today has changed because people don't really use that expression any more."
Gilbert previously worked in the Department of Latin American Art at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas. She speaks Spanish and wrote her doctoral dissertation on surrealism in Mexico.
"I was looking at the work from the early ''80s identifying issues, but the works the artists seemed to be circulating around was immigration," Gilbert said. "Congress failed to pass the immigration bill. Republican candidates for presidency are afraid of being too tough and Ddemocrats are too soft. We are coming into an election year and immigration is a sticky topic no matter the party and the reality is that it aeffects millions of people's lives."
The exhibition at The Center includes seven artists, of whom five were born in Mexico and have first- hand immigration experiences, said Gilbert. Raúl Guerrero's, who will be in attendance for the opening, will present his "Las Indias" series, which traces the route of a Spanish conquistador onto the body of a nude woman. Guerrero reproduces the figure of this woman from a painting of the goddess Venus that Diego Velázquez made as the Spanish Empire was beginning to crumble.
Other artists include Margarita Cabrera, who makes sculptures from household appliances, Hummer vehicless, which are made in Mexico, and backpacks for boarder crossings. Her work reveals the challenge of Mexican workers on both sides of the border.
The humorous and witty Enrique Chagoya uses contemporary culture and pre-Columbian traditions throughout his work revealing a juxtaposition of imagery from both the past and the present. Ana Teresa Fernández's photo realistic paintings reveal impossible labors, which reflect jobs of immigrants.
The work of Julio César Morales explores the "informal economy" of street vendors in Mexican-American communities in the U.S.United States with his vinyl cut-outs applied to gallery walls while Celia Alvarez Muñoz draws on her memories of growing up in El Paso, Texas, through her work of mixed media and photographs, which explore the complications of moving back and forth between Spanish-speaking and English-speaking worlds.
Lastly, Luz María Sánchez, a sound and video artist, makes installations of objects she finds along the border. Many of these objects probably once belonged to people who lost them while trying to cross into the U.SUnited States.
"I hope the show will humanize the whole debate and will make people think about when they talk about immigration policy it is really people's lives," Gilbert said. "I also hope that there will be more dialogue within the valley with people in the Latino community."
The Center will have Spanish translations for the wall exhibitions and its program and in addition will offer Spanish docent tours in January.
'Trabajo Mexicano/Mexican Work'
The multidisciplinary exhibition will open on Friday, Dec. 14, at The Center in Ketchum from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. with a walk- through by featured artist Raúl Guerrero and a short performance by Perla Batalla.
A concert by Perla Batalla will take place at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum on Saturday, Dec. 15, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for members, $25 for non-members and $5 for children 12 and under.
The Center in Hailey will feature "Retablos: Reinterpreting a Tradition" with Boise-based painter Alma Gomez on Wednesday, Dec. 19, through Friday, Feb. 15, with an exhibition celebration and artist talk on Friday, Jan. 11, from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
The Center in Ketchum will be open, until 8 p.m. for Gallery Walk on Friday, Dec. 28. Wine and hors d'oeuvres will be served from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
There will be a slide show talk lecture with comedian and Chicano art collector Cheech Marin on Thursday, Jan. 10, at 7 p.m. at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum. Tickets are $10 for members and $15 for non-members.
At The Center in Hailey there will be a family event on Sunday, Jan. 13, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. for an afternoon of Mexican folk dance demonstration, activities with churros, Mexican hot chocolate.
Take a journey with José-Luis Orozco through his music on Friday, Feb. 1, at 6:30 p.m. at the Liberty Theater Theatre in Hailey. Tickets are $5 for members, $10 for non-members and free for children under 12.
For more information, call 726-9491 or visit sunvalleycenter.org.