Latina artists challenge notions of beauty with nightmarish displays
By Chiquita Paschal
The plight of Vistas Latinas began more than 20 years ago in New York City, where this group of artist-curators organized critically acclaimed collaborations of Latina artists and women of color. Members and co-curators Regina Araujo Corritore and Elaine Soto explain that the collective has continued to evolve as they travel nationwide inviting local artists to submit work and allowing for discussion and the opportunity to break down isolation.
¡Que Feo! is filled with terrifying and gruesome expressions of the darkest secrets of our cultural closet: rape, molestation, self-mutilation, femicide, substance abuse, domestic violence, environmental Armageddon and nuclear annihilation.
No one breathed as she flamenco-danced to disco band Boney M's “Brown Girl in the Ring” before figuratively destroying herself and her audience in the best use of a blackout I've seen to date.
The women of Vistas Latinas have mastered the art of poetic subtlety—they trust us, ignoring self-consciousness, speaking their truths to us as one would to a confidante. Amazingly, with all of the ugliness, visceral pain and destruction, there is an air of peaceful melancholy inherent in their work. Though these issues have not been laid to rest, each piece stands as an epitaph, honoring countless lives and hopes lost. There is no pity, melodrama or apology; rather than being off-putting, the works are engrossing.
The value of these cultural workers has not gone unnoticed by their communities. The gallery was packed on opening night as, one by one, these artists destroyed the very idea of what beauty is and exposed its gnarly insides. This metaphor was most beautifully expressed by Justine Ortiz. If you've never seen a Victorian-era cat in a corset oozing blood from its amputated human legs, then I can think of at least one good reason you should see this show. (See also: disemboweled cat in petticoat, also part of the “Cat Show” series.
Reducinda, Santana and Haven Avila created a demented-doll diorama called “Internalized Oppression.” It features a self-mutilating Barbie, bulimic Skipper and a Troll-humping Bratz doll. The trio's work may seem like child's play, yet their dark humor and crude fabrications allow a window into the taboos of family dysfunction. Other standout work by this troupe includes Reducinda's smart-alecky pin cushion voodoo doll, “Don't be a Prick,” and Haven's crafty mixed-media book-
Corritore led me over to her concrete pyramid installation in the central gallery called “Muerte del Quito Sol,” which I had inattentively tripped over earlier. Based on Aztec mythology, the piece welcomes the coming of the Sixth Sun of Justice, linking the femicide in the Congo to the horrors of the Juárez murders, to several dozen unsolved murders in Albuquerque's West Mesa neighborhood. On top, there is a mosaic of the Moon Goddess' torn-apart body. It is the symbol of the broken woman. “It's time to come back together again. We want to be whole,” Corritore says. The north-facing side of the sculpture is blank. “To let the spirit of these women find an escape to peace,” she says.
The exhibition certainly left a mark on me—in the case of Corritore's work, literally.
¡Que Feo! What Women Think Is Beautiful and Ugly: An Exhibition by Vistas Latinas
Runs through March 26
105 Art Gallery
105 Fourth Street SW
Open Thursday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. or by appointment