Artist: Sheila Garrett Rodriguez
Exhibition: Were We Even Here
Media: Drawing and Painting, Embroidery, Canvas, Sculpture
Gallery: CSULB School of Arts, Max L. Gatov Gallery East
This week I visited the exhibition called, Were We Even Here, created by Sheila Garret Rodriguez. Sheila Garrett Rodriguez is an LA- based artist pursuing her Master of Fine Arts in Fiber Arts at CSULB. She actually received her BFA in CSULB School of Art’s Drawing and Painting Program and decided to further her education to the Fiber Arts Program when she discovered her love for embroidery. She is of Chicana and native Californian decent and throughout her lifetime she has moved from home to another over 30 times. From those 30 times, she made different memories that inspired her to create Were We Even Here.
Ms. Garrett Rodriguez’s installation is beyond beautiful, it ranges from 2-D oil on canvas paintings to 3-D colorful flower embroidered window screens. Also, every art piece that she had displayed was relevant to a home, from the threshold that she had above her “No Trespassing, Borders, and Bodies” (Featured Image) to the wood bed frame and chair. In my opinion, I felt that her “No Trespassing, Borders, and Bodies” oil on canvas painting was the art piece that embodied her journey the most of constantly moving from home to another. It is a naked self-portrait with her arms out facing away from the audience. All of her back is embroidered with colorful flowers and her head is inside a house that has barbed wire coming out from each side. She also happens to be holding onto that barbed wire but it is unclear if she is pushing the wire or if she’s trying to pull away from it. This art piece shows vulnerability and strength which is what I assume she went through during her lifetime of moving over 30 times to different homes.
Through her installation, Ms. Garrett Rodriguez is trying to convey that homes don’t necessarily define a person. However, home is where a person can truly be themselves unlike at work or school where a person shows a different side of themselves. It is obvious that the way someone behaves at home is way different that they behave in public. It’s like we filter ourselves to show the poised and composed side while in public and #therealme while at home. Also, she wanted to make us think what her pieces mean to us and compare what they mean to her. For example, she left the interpretation of whether she was pushing or pulling the barbed wire from “No Trespassing, Borders, and Bodies” up to us so that her personal experience and/or ideas won’t interfere with ours.
Like I mentioned before, this installation was beyond beautiful. Although I’m not of Chicana decent like Ms. Garrette Rodriguez, I saw some similarities in her culture from mine. A main similarity was the embroidery because my grandparents back in Guatemala weave and embroider almost everything from clothes to blankets since it’s cheaper than actually buying already made things. Also, they hold much more sentimental value and carry family history like the beautiful handmade baby blanket my grandmother wove and sent to California when I was born that I still have to this day. Furthermore, another similarity that I related to was the fact that before I was born, my parents and two older brothers had to relocate more than 10 times before finding a stable home after I was born. In that home, we stayed for almost 12 years before moving one last time back in 2008, which I didn’t handle very well. Now imagine moving over 30 times? It hurt me leaving all my friends back in 2008 and that was just once so I can’t even begin to imagine what Ms. Garrett Rodriguez went through those times.