One of the people I met at the Haystack Arts Camp alerted me to an exhibit currently displayed at SUNY Stonybrook called “No se sabe más: No more is know: Anonymity and the murders of women in Ciudad Juárez.” The show features work influenced by and in reaction to the hundreds of serial mutilations, murders, and disappearances of women and girls that have been going on for the last 15 years in Cuidad Juarez, a Mexican city near El Paso, Texas. I stumble upon an article about these murders once every couple years or so, and it just keeps getting worse. The Mexican government does almost nothing to solve or prevent these crimes, and the few suspects they do catch are tortured until they confess (or die), leaving serious doubt as to whether they’re actually guilty. (Confessions given under torture are almost always false, since the person being tortured will usually do anything to make it stop.) I won’t be able to get over to Stonybrook in person, but the exhibit’s website has a photograph of each piece in it, as well as a deeper explanation of this situation, so here’s a little mini-review. I hope this exhibit will teach some new people about this horrible phenomenon. The longer it goes ignored, the longer it’s going to go on.
The 13 female artists of this show each have one piece pictured on the website. Some are also accompanied by an artist’s statement or explanation of the item. Unfortunately, some have neither, and some have a more general artist’s statement, rather than an explanation of how the piece ties into the theme. The general statements almost take away from the idea behind the exhibition, as they seem self-indulgent in comparison to the heartfelt words written on the murderous situation in Mexico.
There’s also quite a wide variation in skill level. Some of the art just looks amateurish compared to the better pieces. Marisa Cornejo Kasterine’s watercolor drawing features a roughly hewn girl diving head first out the backseat door of a moving van, with five male figures seated inside the vehicle. The background consists of brown and yellow scribbles for the road, and flat red with a layer of yellow forked trees for the space behind the van. The artist’s explanation is a short treatise on the artist’s nightly dreams, which this piece is presumably based on, though it doesn’t outright say so. How, then, does this fit in with the theme? A personal statement unrelated to the exhibition’s inspiration just seems out of place. In addition, the drawing itself is unimpressive in its child-like quality. It’s a purely two dimensional drawing: no depth, no shadow, and simple line rendering of the figures and vehicle, right down to the horizontal lines trailing the van to indicate motion.
Kasterine’s drawing fits in neither with the exhibit’s theme, nor with the skill level in the more accomplished pieces, such as Jain Hutzell’s sinewy carved wooden sculpture. Her upright log has subtle flows that vaguely resemble a human body and a stretching hand near its top, as if it’s reaching out for help.
Erica Arce’s ceramic sculpture, however, is by far the standout piece of the show. It’s a ceramic, mutant human torso painted cream with dusty gray in the corners and cracks. The gray corners and allover scratchy texture make it look dirty and beat-up. The figure’s head, back of the neck, and back of the shoulders are jaggedly broken off, and its arms clutch its belly at the base of the elongated torso. A split down the figure’s center, and a bloody red stain at the broken edge of the shoulders, make it all the more disturbing. I only wish the online photo were bigger, so I could get a better look at the details and the shreds of clay scattered at its base (I can’t tell what they are from the photo). Overall, the figure evokes pain, sadness, and serious abuse. It sympathizes with the mutilated and murdered women of Cuidad Juarez. Taken in a broader context, the figure can be seen as representing the women across the globe who are maltreated and killed every day while their government and society do nothing to stop it and the rest of the world remains ignorant or apathetic.
I wish the website included bigger and more photos, and it’d be nice if media were listed with each piece. At the very least, they ought to list the titles of the pieces pictured online. But I guess the website really isn’t the focus; the idea is to GO to the show.
For those who ARE able to go to Stonybrook, the exhibit is located in the Student Acitivity Center Gallery, which is open Tuesday through Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and will be on display through November 2. Website is http://studentaffairs.stonybrook.edu/sacgallery.