Artist: Sheila Rodriguez
Exhibition: Were We Even Here
Media: Mixed-media; Fiber; Installation; Embroidery
Gallery: Gatov Gallery East
About the Artist:
Sheila Rodriguez is completing her Master’s of Fine Arts in Fiber Arts at Cal State Long Beach. She has completed her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in drawing and painting. Rodriguez shared with her audience that she has moved about 30 times within her lifetime. Reason being, her mother remarried four times. Other reasons would be economic issues, or seeking change in her life. Rodriguez believes that moving a great deal of times has changed her perspective of life, and influences the ways she thinks.
Were We Even Here displays many different pieces of her old homes. There are pieces of drywall, window screens, bed frame, chair, plaster, embroidery floss, molcajete, cochineal, and a video documentation. All embroidery was colorful, and mostly consisted of shapes of flowers.
Each piece represents a different memory you associate with different homes you live in throughout your life. Rodriguez has connections to each object, because it signifies the values, status, tastes, and culture she was once a part of. She points out that people make judgements about the house-related objects that you own, because they define the person you are. No Trespassing: Borders and Bodies is a painting of Rodriguez’s back holding barbed wire, with a house instead of the back of her head. The house in this painting is the first home she has owned, which is located in the city of Whittier. The painting represents Rodriguez’ identity. The painting portrays the fact that one may never know who is holding the other down. Whether the house holds the human or the human holds onto their home. Not knowing who has control over the other can be painful, but Rodriguez chooses to not paint any blood dripping from her hands, which are holding the barbed wire. The embroidered colorful mexican flowers are a cultural identifier. The piece of wood on top of the painting Trespassing: Borders and Bodies, is part of her ceiling from one of her old homes. This piece represents the threshold between one’s private home space versus public space. One acts more comfortable and themselves at home, as opposed to the public eye. The most meaningful piece for Rodriguez is her grandmother’s bed, because after her death, the bed was passed on to her father who has also recently died. House For Sale consists of a house for sale sign on a window screen, which represents the numerous times Rodriguez has moved from home to home. When I’m Gone is a video documentation of Rodriguez crushing cochineal and turning it into cochineal extract. Cochineal are harvested on plantations of prickly cacti, the bugs’ preferred host. The insects are dried, crushed, and is produced to carminic acid. The red-dye pigment becomes cochineal extract, which is what Rodriguez made in her video. The title of Rodriguez’s exhibition caught my attention. Her title does not end with a questionmark, because she is making statement. Rodriguez knows that she was once part of every home she has lived in, so she choses to not question if she was even there before.
Synthesis/ My Experience
I was really intrigued by this exhibition because I feel that it was relatable. I have not moved as many times as Rodriguez has, but whenever I do, it’s easy for me to do so. My mom has owned two homes in her lifetime, and the last home we lived in, we lost it back in 2007 when the housing market crash was at its peak. Many homes were put for sale or foreclosure. My mother was unable to afford the payments, and we moved to an apartment. I feel like this exhibition is relatable, because the connections or memories one has with their previous home will follow you into the next home that you are in.