Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mandy Cano Vilalobos

Roxaboxen Exhibitions Presents: 
Work by Mandy Cano Vilalobos

Opening Reception October 8th 6-8pmOctober 8th- October 29th 2011

Voces (“Voices”) is a performative installation that addresses the mass femicide of Chihuahua, Mexico. An ongoing act of mourning and protest, I silently sit to the side of the gallery, embroidering the names of individual murder victims into white blouses. Beginning with the first documented victims in 1993, every woman is commemorated with pink thread, referencing the pink crosses that have been erected and painted throughout the city by those who mourn the dead. As the shirts fill the center of the room, memorial shrines and missing person posters line the walls.

 Having resided in El Paso, Texas as a child, I find a jarring incongruence between my fond memories of Juarez and the city I now hear about on the news.  I remember the shock, disgust and sorrow I felt when I first became aware of the femicides in Chihuahua. The majority of victims, from low income families, are between the ages of 14 and 30.  Many are raped, beaten, tortured, strangled and sometimes shot to death, their mutilated bodies discarded in the dessert, or left by the highway.  The motives range from gang initiation rituals and sport killings to domestic abuse.   

I have dedicated the last three years to embroidering the name of each woman and looking into the individual stories of their lives.  In this way, the act of sewing has become an act of commemoration and mourning.  As the needle pierces each shirt, the suffering of each woman is lamented and recorded in thread. Though their lives and bodies have been so carelessly discarded, these women are not forgotten.  The time taken to hand-stitch one name is a time taken to remember one person; it is to lovingly declare, “No, you are not forgotten.  I remember you.  I value you.” 

 Voces also aims to make the Chihuahua femicides a very real and urgent dilemma to a United States audience and solicit change on both sides of the border.  Regardless of ethnic background, viewers are endowed with power by mere virtue of their residency on this side of the border.  They assume an implied responsibility as consumers of such companies as Alcoa, General Electric, Du Pont, Ford, Johnson & Johnson and Kenwood, US-owned corporations that continue to operate Juarez factories where many of these women are employed and often exploited – an exploitation directly linked to the social climate of the femicides.  Voces presents viewers with the perspectives of those who suffer under the current system and calls them to recognize their ability to act in the victims’ favor.   

Mandy Cano Vilalobos is an artist and educator based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan.  She received her M.F.A. The George Washington University in Washington D.C., and is currently a professor at Calvin College in Grand Rapids.  

Roxaboxen Exhibitions
2130 W 21st Street
Chicago IL 60608
Gallery hours Saturdays 12-3pm

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