TO WEAVE BLUE (POEMA AL TEJIDO)
On view: January 31 – March 13
Opening reception: 5-7 pm, January 31
Hellen Ascoli Tool as Place performance, January 28, 11:30 am, ACB Courtyard
In Conversation: Hellen Ascoli (artist) and Laura August (curator): January 30, 7 pm, ACB 310
Exhibition Walkthrough and Coffee with Curator Laura August (in Spanish and English): February 1, 1:30 pm, Fogelman Galleries
Artists Hellen Ascoli and Antonio Pichillá will also be present to speak about their work
All events and programs free and open to the public.
In the exhibition To Weave Blue (Poema al tejido), six contemporary artists and poets from Guatemala present work related to weaving. They consider the production of textiles as a site for knowledge, language transmission, and cultural tradition within Maya communities. Seen together, these artists' works in textile, video, poetry, performance, and installation encompass ways of understanding history, relationships, legacies of violence, and survival. The works also evoke non-Western models for art's place in everyday life, offering a narrative that exists independent of Western visual art's traditions.
Many exhibitions in the United States and abroad have presented historical work by Maya people and weavings from Maya communities within ethnographic frameworks. This reflects a U.S. view of the Maya as an extinct culture, rather than a vibrant contemporary culture with numerous communities across the Americas. In contrast, this is the first exhibition in the U.S. that presents Maya artists as contemporary producers of conceptual art. To offer an approach that resists a certain cultural and historical flattening, To Weave Blue is framed as a collaborative poem or a song written to honor weaving and its ways of describing the world: Poema al tejido is a Poem for the Weaving. The exhibition thus leaves open space between different ideas, allowing them to resonate with each other gently, rather than attempting to define contemporary Mayan practice.
As its title suggests, To Weave Blue also considers the color blue. Like 'weaving,' the word 'blue' has many meanings in the U.S., including sadness and melancholy. In Guatemala, a light sky blue is the national color. A deeper blue pigment, made from the mixture of indigo, clay, and the incense copal, has been used in Maya communities for more than a thousand years. The exhibition considers how a person's identity in a nation might be tied to sorrow and loss; from 1960 to 1996, an internal conflict raged in Guatemala, killing more than 200,000 people. Multiple acts of genocide were committed by the national military against Maya communities. In light of this, the many shades of blue in the exhibition might also suggest a relationship not only to profound grief but also cultural methods of survival. And in this context, weavings are signs of resistance, as much as they are objects of comfort and daily use.
The exhibition includes work by contemporary Maya artists Edgar Calel (Kaq'chikel Maya from Chixot – San Juan Comalapa), Manuel Chavajay (Tzu'tujil Maya from San Pedro La Laguna, Sololá), Negma Coy (Kaq'chikel Maya from Chixot – San Juan Comalapa), Sandra Monterroso (Qeq'chi' Maya based in Guatemala City), and Antonio Pichillá (Tzu'tujil Maya from San Pedro La Laguna, Sololá). The exhibition also includes work by Guatemalan weaver, educator, sculptor, and researcher Hellen Ascoli (Guatemala City / Madison, WI). To Weave Blue (Poema al tejido) is curated by Laura August, a U.S.-born writer and curator based in Guatemala City and Houston, TX.