December and January were very fruitful in the studio; I completed several works and applied for graduate school. The works below were finished during the past month and included in my application.
I concluded an ongoing series titled Jamais Vu, which roughly translates to never seen. These “psychological vignettes” were created through extensive interviews with victims of emotional abuse, transforming their tellings into sculptures that convey distressed realities. The series began with research into the fractured mental state of abuse survivors, specifically women and children. Through reading the work of Scott Stossel, Bessel Van Der Kolk, and Christine Ann Lawson, I developed a framework with which to better understand trauma and its relationship to the body. I also collected interviews for Jamais Vu during my time volunteering with youth in Harlem, New York, and Cherokee, North Carolina. I am pleased to share that eight works from Jamais Vu were placed in the SCAD Permanent Collection in December.
Untitled Duality (Ode to Muñoz) marks the end of Jamais Vu and considers the particular consequences of emotional and mental abuse on the body. These truncated, oppressed forms allude to physical trauma and a broken family system.
At the end of December, I travelled to south Florida and recorded an audio of my grandmother for the completion of Untitled Arch Over the River. She sang songs that her father would play on the guitar for his children at the end of a long day working on American cotton fields. This sculpture evokes the sense of loss and longing for a home unattainable by time and boundary. My grandmother’s voice emits from the cornhusk on the far left.
My abuela’s memoir, Along the Banks of the Rio Grande, which details pivotal events in the Mexican desert of her childhood, has influenced my practice over the past year. Authors who critically discuss the relationship of the United States to its minority peoples, such as Coco Fusco, Octavio Paz, bell hooks, and Paulo Freire, have further expanded my perception of cultural colonialism. With this exploration, I began to grasp at a lost vision of land, voice, and agriculture. This works is made in proportion to the human form and, through this, it relates to the viewer as an equal presence.
Tapestry of Relations is a wall hanging that brings attention to the anxiety associated with the Mexican border. This work in progress features an excerpt from Octavio Paz’s The Labyrinth of Solitude. Although his words date back to 1972, they could not be more relevant to our current political conversations.
The full embroidery will read:
“Today, the United States faces very powerful enemies, but the mortal danger comes from within: not from Moscow but from that mixture of arrogance and opportunism, blindness and short-term Machiavellianism, volubility and stubbornness which has characterized its foreign policies. 1972, Octavio Paz”
As my current reads inform me, I look forward to continue to make works which explore politically and personally compelling narratives that question misperceptions of belonging in the United States.
Be well and create well,
Emily Nelms Perez
A Brief History of the Caribbean, by Jan Rogonzinski – An in depth survey of the Caribbean, its wars, political shifts, and social and economic history from Columbus to the 1980’s.
Latin American Folktales, by John Bierhorst – So far, this book is hilarious and slightly violent, like every good folktale. Provides me with insight into the values of each Latin culture and there are reoccurances as the mother Mary as a fairy godmother. Very interesting to see the intersection of Spanish Catholicism and native peoples
Living and Sustaining a Creative Life, edited by Sharon Louden – This is a reread for me, I pick it up every once in a while to be reminded of other artist’s rhythms in the studio. I highly recommend it to any working artist.
BEATRIZ SANTIAGO MUÑOZ: A Universe of Fragile Mirrors
On View January 11– April 30, 2017 El Barrio del Museo, NY, NY