Artist: Sheila Rodriguez
Exhibition: Were We Even Here
Media: Oil on Canvas, Metal, Yarn, Window Screen, Metal Screen, Chair, Bed Frame, Embroidery floss, Drywall, Iphone Video Documentary
Gallery: School of Art, Gatov Gallery East
About the Artist
This week I had the pleasure of seeing my first thesis art show in the Max L. Gatov Gallery East located in California State University, Long Beach. The show title is “Were We Even Here” and the artist’s name is Sheila Rodriguez. Sheila returned to CSULB’s School of Art to pursue her MFA degree in Fiber. Her first time in CSULB she received her Undergraduate degree in Drawing and Painting. She is the mother of three daughters, one who is currently attending college in Hawaii and pursuing a multimedia degree. After Sheila receives her MFA degree she has a couple collaborations and internships lined up with other artists.
A lot of her art pieces in the exhibition reflected embroidered patterns. Sheila noted that a huge part of her choosing to major in Fiber was because of her Mexican heritage. Some of her hobbies included crocheting, embroidering, weaving, and photography.
There is a lot of color and embroidered patterns on every piece of art. The colors are so vibrant and perfectly placed on each piece. I cannot say that one solid piece was my favorite in Sheila’s exhibition because all her work is spectacular. But if I had to choose one of her pieces, I would have to pick the piece titled “No Trespassing: Borders and Bodies”. It is an oil canvas painting which also includes embroidered patterns. There is a human figure in the middle of the canvas. The human figure has a house where the head should be and the figure has the arms spread out and is holding on to barbwire. Above the canvas painting there is a wooden beam with nails embedded in the wood and other small prices of wood nailed to the wooden beam.
The message Sheila is depicting in her artwork is the idea that we identify and remember what we want to remember. The canvas “No Trespassing: Borders and Bodies” is of a human figure who has their hands spread out on the canvas and has a house as a head. The house is a representation of the first house Sheila and her husband bought together. She holds that home dear to her heart and remembers the home as she left it. After a short period after they bought the home they flipped it and moved. The wooden beam above the canvas is a representation of the renovations that have taken place at that house since. Taking a second glance at the canvas is when I noticed the barbed wires that the figure is holding onto. Though the hands are holding onto barbed wire no blood is shown on the hands. There reason there is no blood on the hands is because the feelings to holding onto something can vary from person to person. For some people, holding on to the memory of a home may cause great pain because it can represent heartbreak and can be associated with bad memories; on the other hand, holding onto the idea of an old home can help keep the memory of loved ones alive. I also noticed that embedded on the human figure were a lot of colorful details. Those small details that ran up the spine and onto the house is a way of showing Sheila’s Mexican heritage which was a major reason she decided to pursue her masters in Fiber. It resembles the patterns seen on Mexican dish clothes that are hand sewn onto the cloth.
My Experience/ Synthesis
Walking into Sheila’s exhibition made me a little home sick. Not home sick as to missing my mother and father, but home sick from Mexico. I am Mexican American as well and seeing the embroidered patterns in the window and metal screens reminded me so much of my family in Mexico. The embroidered patterns reminded me of my grandma, aunties, and mom who would sew patterns onto cloths that were used to wrap food in and also cloths used to make pillow cases. Not only did the patterns remind me of those cloths, but also the bright colors. Staring at the art pieces by Sheila brought me back home and I could picture walking to my grandma’s house and seeing her sewing the patterns into the cloths.
Every element drew me to the pieces, the colors were vibrant, and the media was intriguing. She used materials that would have been trash to some people and repurposed it. More so, I enjoyed the canvas painting the most. The black in the background and the small colorful details along the spine and up to the house made the picture come out to me. The meaning behind it was interesting because I have never thought of it in that way. Though I have not moved since I was 9 years old, I could understand where Sheila was coming from. I never understood why going to Mexico was so important to my parents. Now that I am older I understand that it represents something deep to them. They remember their home in a distinct way that I remember it. They have memories there that I may not never know exist.