<<< From the altar "Para Mama Benita con Amor" by Beatriz Vasquez at the SOMArts 2017 Day of the Dead exhibition
November 14, 2017 5:16 pm
for Mission Local (LINK, with photos)
It was on a trip to Mexico after her father’s death that Beatriz Vasquez discovered the centuries-old Mexican craft that has become the vehicle for her art.
Papel picado, which involves cutting designs into layers of thin tissue paper, goes back to pre-Hispanic Mexico and is still used for events like weddings, baptisms and other festivals or ceremonies.
“It’s very disposable, and nobody really sees it as a fine art,” said the 49-year-Vasquez, who has a year-long fellowship with Root Division, where she teaches. And she has a residency at The Growlery, where artists live and work, rent-free, in a restored Victorian-era home.
During her trip to Mexico, Vasquez researched the craft and began to see papel picado as a metaphor for the indigenous women she was interviewing.
“I saw the paper as very fragile, but extremely beautiful and extremely sustainable and extremely versatile,” she said. “Kind of like what we are.”
It was then, Vasquez said, that she thought, “‘I’m gonna take this craft, disposable art form and turn it into fine art.’”
Her pieces are generally large — sometimes seven feet tall — and depict her experiences with politics, self-expression and her Mexican culture. In her work, there are intricate cuts of skeletons, butterflies and pineapples.
The very nature of the art and how a successful piece operates reflects society, she said. “Everything has to connect for it to work,” she said. “If we don’t connect with each other, it doesn’t work.”
One piece, La Sirena Feminista, tackles the topic of machismo in the Latino community. The work, created in 2015, is based on a traditional Mexican card game known as the Lotería. The face of la Sirena is that of Beatriz.