It’s not every day art appreciators get the inside scoop on an artist’s current body of work, but on Sept. 30 at the Triton Museum of Art, guests got to do just that.
At the museum’s first ever Coffee with the Curator, Consuelo Jimenez Underwood sat down with about 40 people to discuss her current show, Welcome to Flower-Landia, with the Triton’s chief curator, Preston Metcalf.
The work in the show is done entirely of textiles, the medium in which Underwood works, and deals with borders, something very personal to the artist and seen in all of her pieces. Underwood grew up in a migrant family, leaving school in the summers to pick fruit, and constantly going back and forth across the Mexican border so her family could remain together.
“That is the Mexico-US border superimposed on the world map and in the one sense, when Conseulo was putting it up, it struck me as a scar, a painful thing and each of the nails – correct me if I’m wrong here – represents a border city,” said Metcalf of the world map painted on the back wall of the Warburton Gallery.
“Not just a border city, but where a wall has been constructed,” responded Underwood.
“I was looking at this and then Consuelo started stretching and wrapping and winding these fibers, joining them and I thought it’s not a gash, it’s not separate,” said Metcalf. “We are connected. We can’t ignore what’s going on on the other side of the border as if these are alien people. They are us. And, then something changed in my mind…those threads became sutures and I saw it as a very healing piece. That’s bringing my interpretation into it, but that is I think the strength of your work. It’s talking about painful issues and painful memories but it’s a very healing message.”
“There was a promise I made a long time ago,” said Underwood, “when I decided to do threads as opposed to painting canvas…If I’m going to talk about ugly, horrific things, it has to be beautiful. It still will be beautiful because I honor the medium. I honor that process so much that I want it to always be beautiful. I do not ever make something hideous…I realize that even though my life was horrific, I was grateful for being alive.”
Every other month, the museum will hold Coffee with the Curator. Some months an artist will come in to explain their work, while others will be dedicated to topics on getting an art show, putting together an artist packet, and having the curators explain why shows are chosen. Admission is $5 for non-members and free for members. Coffee and refreshments are provided. Visit http://tritonmuseum.org/education_adults_coffeewcurator.php for more information.