Artist: Sheila Garrett Rodriguez
Exhibition: Were We Even Here
Gallery: Max Gatov Gallery East
Media: Mixed Media: wallpaper, dry wall, oil, acrylic, window screen, yarn, metal screen, plaster embroidery floss
About the Artist:
Sheila Garrett Rodriguez is a graduate student at Cal State Long Beach. She returned to CSULB after receiving her undergraduate degree in Drawing and Painting. Currently she is pursing her MFA in Fiber, a decision that came to her because of her Mexican heritage. Interestingly, Sheila does not speak any Spanish at all. Although her tongue does not know the language, her taste buds really enjoy the food. She really enjoys eating tamales but her favorite is Menudo. Sheila doesn’t blame her mother or grandmother for not teaching her the language but the time where Mexicans were discriminated in the U.S. She remembers her mother telling her how they were so discriminated that they would threaten Sheila’s grandmother with taking her kids if they spoke Spanish. Shelia moved around a lot growing up a lot and while that may sometimes it may hold a negative connotation to it, it actually allowed her to grow more as an artist. Many of the homes she moved around now, influence her artwork. All the moving around also allowed her to create many good memories. Some of her hobbies include embroidery, crocheting and photography.
When walking into Rodriguez’s exhibition, one’s eye is immediately captured but the detail and bright colors of her embroidery. The flowers embroiled on the window frames vary in size. The texture varies on the items there is soft yarn but there is also rough dry wall and wood. Looking around the exhibition Were We Even Here its easy to see the artist without having met her yet. The exhibition really shows the identity of someone with strong Mexican- American roots. Each piece varies in size the largest being “grandmothers bed.”
Were We Even Here to Sheila Garrett Rodriguez was about her exploring her personal identity as a Chicana that has a strong pull to her Mexican heritage. In one exhibition she reveals the more than 30 homes that she lived in. Through every piece Rodriguez wants her audience to question, the idea that “your home defines who you are.” Her piece titled, “No Trespassing, Borders and Bodies” is a self-portrait of Rodriguez her self and the very first home her and her husband bought together. Through this piece in particular she hoped to expose not only herself but also the memories and emotional toll it takes on her. That memory and emotional toll wasn’t essentially a bad one because there is no blood on the hands holding the barbed wire bit there is strength, the strength it took Rodriguez to keep those memories alive of that home. Along with other pieces of her exhibition, she was “piecing back her cultural history.” The bed frame at the center of her exhibition was her grandmother’s bed that recently passed. She kept the piece and painted it, with grandmother’s bed she explored the fact that in a home, not only are loved ones connected to each other but they are also connected to the objects and space within the home.
Synthesis/ My experience
When I walked into Rodriguez’s exhibition, it reminded me of the embroiled napkins and wallets that my aunts always send me from Mexico. Rodriguez’s embroidery was beautiful and I really felt at home with in her exhibition. But at the same time I realized how for granted I take my Mexican Heritage. It really made me reflect on how Americanized I’ve become. Rodriguez is a person that can’t even speak the language but has really strong Mexican roots. In contrast, I can speak the language but I don’t think my roots are as strong as the way Rodriguez displayed her own. Through her pieces I really felt I should be more appreciative of my culture. Instead of throwing those napkins and wallets in a drawer I should show them off. I learned I should be afraid or shy or intimidated by the fact that I am Mexican- American but express it because there was a time that, that was taken from my people, mi cultura.