All posts in “Mexico”

Object of the Week: Slow Cooker

With these works, we have created art pieces that serve as cultural and historical artifacts that value and document the experiences, struggles, and achievements of those who have found their way, often through migration and exceptional sacrifice, to new places where they now work to contribute meaningfully within their communities.

  – Margarita Cabrera

Soft vinyl covers the customary porcelain, metal, and glass of this trusty kitchen crockpot. While the clear lid is left exposed, plush fabric replaces the sturdy handles and appliance parts. Red stitching adds a playful contrast against the sky blue base, and the remaining long, loose threads speak to homemade craftsmanship.

Slow Cooker is part of artist Margarita Cabrera’s soft sculpture series, which reimagines commercial objects from bicycles and cars to household tools and cleaning supplies. Cabrera was a featured artist in Pop Departures, a 2014 exhibition at SAM that explored contemporary artists who look to Pop Art for artistic inspiration or critique. The malleable and everyday forms of Cabrera’s sculptures draw on stylistic elements of works by Pop artist Claes Oldenburg.

Cabrera is an artist, activist, and community organizer. She infuses her art with socio-political and personal reflection as a Mexican American. Topics of cultural identity, migration, violence, inclusivity, labor, and empowerment—with a focus on US-Mexico border issues—are at the forefront of Cabrera’s art practice.[1] In her transformative justice initiatives, Cabrera organizes artistic collaborations in local communities. For her 2010 outreach project, Space in Between, Cabrera partnered with Latinx immigrants from Mexico and Central America to create sculptures of Southwestern US desert plants.[2] Using fabric from the uniforms of Border Patrol forces, the soft sculptures recall embroidery techniques from Los Tenangos, Hidalgo, Mexico and traditions of Otomi Indigenous communities. The workshops empowered the participants to share their journeys of tremendous danger and sacrifice, crafting dialogues of unity, healing, and resistance.

Playful and interactive, the collapsible textures of Slow Cooker invite touch and public engagement. The bold, bright colors are illustrative of traditional woven Mexican designs. Slow Cooker provokes us, and perhaps teases us, as consumers and viewers, to reconsider these unassuming objects and the hands that made them. Cabrera shatters the invisibility of immigrant laborers in factory, farm, and service jobs—engaging the need for active listening and policy change at the ground level, igniting a political conversation that remains urgent and necessary.

Rachel Kim, SAM Curatorial Intern

[1] “Margarita Cabrera.” © Margarita Cabrera, https://www.margaritacabrera.com/sample-page/
[2]“Margarita Cabrera: Space in Between. February 10 – June 10, 2018.” Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art, Hamilton College, https://www.hamilton.edu/wellin/exhibitions/detail/margarita-cabrera-space-in-between-1-1-1-1-1-1-1
Image: Slow Cooker, 2003, Margarita Cabrera, vinyl, thread, and appliance parts, 13 × 8 × 10 in., Modern Art Acquisition Fund and General Acquisition Fund, 2015.7.2 © Artist or Artist’s Estate
Share
Labret

Object of the Week: Labret

This beautiful gold object—known as a labret—was crafted circa 900-1500 AD in Pre-Columbian Mexico, either by the Mixtec or Aztec. Labrets have an extensive history and appear in cultures beyond Central and South America, in Africa, the Middle East, and Pacific Rim cultures. Despite its size, a mere 1 1/2 x 1 x 1 1/8 inches, this precious piece of jewelry was likely worn by a high-ranking person—perhaps a dignitary or warrior. A symbol of status, such ornaments would fit piercings in the lower lip; the flat backing would rest inside the mouth, while the decorated portion would extend away from face.

While much more elaborate labrets do exist, sometimes representing animals or featuring moveable elements (see this serpent labret with an articulated tongue for a rare example of both), this relatively simple labret bears an intricate spiral patterning on its reverse. Though not overly ornamental, the curved shape could certainly be interpreted as an abstraction of an animal form, perhaps a fang or beak, as birds and serpents were among many figures commonly depicted.

Gold has, throughout time and across cultures, proven to be an extremely precious metal. In Aztec culture, gold was sacred and understood literally as the excrement of the gods (from teocuitlatlteotl, meaning ‘god’, and cuitlatl, meaning ‘excrement’). Unfortunately, when Spanish colonizers arrived to the Americas, many prized gold objects such as this labret were melted down in order to facilitate their transportation back to Europe and subsequent trade. Small gold objects from this period are rare, making this labret an exciting new acquisition that helps shed light on the important goldworking traditions of Mixtec and Aztec cultures.

– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

Image: Labret, ca. AD 900-1500, Mixtec or Aztec, gold, 1 1/2 × 1 × 1 1/8 in., Gift in honor of Assen Nicolov, 2018.3.5
Share
Share