Week 2: Mexican Museum

July 23rd, 2013

Maricruz Gutierrez ’14 Black Fellow in Chicano Art

From week one into week two, I spent my days emailing Chicano artists in the Bay area or close to San Francisco to hold an interview with them.  Even though there is a great amount of Chicano artists located at San Francisco, I wanted to make sure I would meet the primary artists that took part during the Chicano Civil Right Movement. I feel they are the ones who helped inspire contemporary Chicano artists. Within couple of days, I received email responses!

The last day of week one I held a Skype interview with Isis Rodriguez, who is from San Francisco but currently in Guanajuato, Mexico doing a comic book project. One of my fundamental questions that I have and will ask the artist is if they identify themselves as Chicano/a. A simple answer is a learning experience, because Isis identifies herself as Latina rather than Chicana. In her opinion the term Chicano/a may have couple variations to its meaning, but holds a political standpoint. As we talked, I asked her about the Nepantla in her current work, Masked Women Series. Nepantla is an Nahuatl word connoting “in between” or “torn between two ways”. This word came about during the colonial occupation in the Americas describing the mix of the two races. In addition, Isis mentions the word nepantla was invented by the Aztecs to describe their conflict in being forced to become “modernized”, which explains her series of women in between two worlds to capture the differences between the cartoon and her realistic cohort. This series can also be put in context how Chicana women are in a personal struggle with the modern environment dominated by popular media and how that challenges their presence in this society.

Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take photographs of the museum’s collections because of security reasons. I learn that it is a process to what it is accessible to the public view. I was able to spend two days in the collections area assisting one of the museum’s staff with opening a package that held perfectly wrapped artworks. Before that, we had an informational session about collection handling. Since many of us are working on the printmaking exhibition, we were taught the steps of holding a print and using the proper tools to carry the print. Holding a print from today may not seem to make a difference, but it can also dictate the condition of the print as the years go by.

Courtesy of Mexican Museum

Courtesy of Mexican Museum

Courtesy of Mexican Museum

Courtesy of Mexican Museum

It took two days to take all the pieces out carefully and to open them as it was 1,000 years old. She told me that when we open packages, we must treat the artwork as if it is thousand years old because we really don’t know how fragile it may be. The box contained small compartments that held about 2-4 pieces. Specialized paper is used to wrap an artwork because of the effect it may have on the artwork. I was able to do the first steps of cataloging by making sure every single designated small figure came in the package. I kept a list near to note them down as I opened them. In the end, it was a band of musicians that were ready to be photographed for documentation.

Courtesy of Mexican Museum

Courtesy of Mexican Museum

The small figures that I was handling came from a collector, Rex May, who had a great collection from Latin America displayed in his house. Right now in the Mexican Museum, there is an exhibition of his collection. He donated a portion of his collection years ago, but it is still a great abundance of artworks! The interesting part of the exhibition is that it is arranged exactly how it looked in his house. I was told that it was his only request once his collection was given to the museum.  Next week, I will provide images of Rex May exhibition!

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