Post-modern folk expressionist Rebekah Crisanta in front of her M-Series at Electric Machete Studios.
I was able to get a preview and catch up with St. Paul based-artist Rebekah Crisanta who premieres her New POP Art Guadalupe Iconogrophy exhibit tonight at Electric Machete Studios for this weekend's art crawl. Rebekah is the Art Director for Ce Tempoxcalli (First House of Indigenous Knowledge Productions) and Lead Apprentice for the MN Flute Project-Ce In Yollotl In Tlapizalli (One with the Heart and Flute).
Q: What are your main artistic influences?
Rebekah: My main influences begins with my family's story. My father was a refugee from El Salvador who is now a US Citizen. He worked closely with Archbishop Oscar Romero up until through his assassination. That was a very traumatic event for the whole country and it was his reason to leave. He went to Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. In Mexico, he worked with solidarity communities and catholic communities. My mom's family is Norwegian-American. With a lot of family in Norway still. Strong Lutheran and on her side of the family there were a lot of pastors. So on both sides of my family I had theology as a foundation. Not one specific denomination of religion, but just the study of God, prayer, iconography and symbols to parallel stories in the way that all of us in the body of humanity, choose to think about while contemplating on, "why we're hear and who made us? Who is a creator? How did we get to this place?"
My mother was in college and went to Cuernavaca and my parents met there. I'm kind of an in-between immigrant generation, because before I was born my mom came back so I could be born in the states. My dad was still in Mexico and shortly he came to the US with the struggle of being an immigrant, not speaking any English but was very educated, but when you com to this country as an immigrant that doesn't mean anything. At the time in Iowa, there weren't many Spanish speakers or many immigrants so it was very very difficult for him.
My family's stories and the stories of my ancestors are what influenced me to be dedicated to study traditional artesenias.
Q: What traditional artesenias are used in your work?
RC: Papel-picado (paper-cutting) and repujado (tin embossing). Papel-picado is made for la fiesta (the party) and representing the wind, the breath of life. Also, for a while I've playing with different weaving and making milagros known as versions of Central American and Mexican icons meant for prayer, healing and ceremonies for your home alter. I was self-taught in weaving and just now feeling that I can take those traditional techniques that I have in my tool-box and tell my story. Share my vision in a contemporary way. That's why I call it post-modern folk, because it references traditional art, but it's new and fresh at the same time inspired by what we're doing at this time and at this place here in Minnesota.
Q: You're showcasing your latest work at this years Art Crawl and introducing the M-Series. What inspired the M-Series and what do the M's represent?
RC: The prayers I have for the lives being controlled by military police and gang authorities in El Salvador. I have a lot of layers of prayers with this body of work, and that's why I call it the M-Series, because I'm thinking about Mary, about Guadalupe. I think about Mary as in: what happens when a holy icon is over-commercialized as she is in our culture? Now Mary's a pop icon. Is she still a holy icon? Is there a grounded medium between authentic Indigenous spirituality and the church that so many of our people find hope in? For me these questions are answered by the symbol of Guadalupe. I framed this in my sketch book as Mary being a bridge between the flower and the feather. Flower being a representative of the Spanish's church and the feather a representative of our Indigenous culture.
Another M is represented through manufacturing using 3M recycled products that were discarded and recycled through Art Start a non-profit I do youth work with. Although 3M has a lot of questionable activities effecting our local water sheds…so while I am hesitant to use those materials, i feel it creates a platform for discussions about the environmental work happening here.
I also use Mexican oil tablecloth in the M-Series. All Latinas love oil tablecloths! It represents the table that to me is a sacred place. It's where women create a space that is the heart of our home; where we share the bread or tortillas. The table is where we pray and heal one another. The tablecloth in this piece also represents the tables of all the mothers who lost their children killed by the Maras and were siting at the table waiting for their children to come home. Maras are the gangs originated in the USA which were imported to Central America.
Then I find the M in Military and Military Manufacturing. The letter M is used a lot in military serial numbers and guns. This ties into the stories of the military along with the Maras turning against our own people connecting with interpretations of how the images of Mary can also serve as a tool of mass destruction towards indigenous people. There's a lot of Ms, this is pretty much the core of the M-Series inspiration. I could go on but I'm trying to protect myself.
Q: Are there any other upcoming projects you're working on? What are your goals as an artist in the movement?
RC: I have a few projects, one of them being the Dimensions of Indigenous where I am focusing on specific inter-cultural storytelling and looking at the parallels of uniting tribes. Electric Machete Studios is working towards getting our own building in order to create our own space and place to discuss, create and share our work as an Indegenous Latino art hub. My individual goal as an artist is to bring high value to folk art...giving it a contemporary lens and to continue to tell my story, my people's story and to carve out and create my own little high art space for that storytelling to happen.
Rebekah Crisanta's New POP Art Guadalupe Iconography
Friday-Sunday 4/24-4/26 at the Saint Paul Art Crawl.
Studio Party at Electric Machete Studios 106 W. Water Street 5th Floor, St. Paul, MN 55107
Friday April 24 7pm-10pm. Suggested donation $5. Visit: www.rebekahcrisanta.com for more info