A new show of prints made by women in Mexico is helping give voice to a group that often struggles to be heard. "Sus Voces," or "Their Voices," now on display at Highpoint Center for Printmaking in Minneapolis, presents the work of nine women printmakers who work in a wide range of techniques and styles. Curator Tina Tavera said that while printmaking is a traditional art form in Mexico, far fewer women practice it than men.
"There seems to be more Mexican women doing design," she said. "Maybe that's for practical purposes, for employment and such."
Tavera was inspired by a show she saw on a visit to Mexico City. She traveled back and forth between Mexico and Minnesota for two years, meeting women in their studios or in neighboring cities. From about 100 artists, she selected works by nine women she felt represented both the quality and the diversity of the work.
An intricately detailed woodcut of a rickety roller coaster speaks to urban decay, while a series of surrealist lithographs evokes the work of Rene Magritte.
One wall of the Highpoint gallery is dedicated to the large prints of Edith Chavez. Tavera said when she visited Chavez's studio, the artist's unassuming manner belied her resume:
"And as I said, 'I love your work and I really appreciate it — can you tell me a little bit about this piece?' She says, 'Oh, that was in the Biennial [Art Exhibition] in Cuba' ... You start to realize, 'Oh my gosh, you've exhibited everywhere internationally.' It was really impressive to me. But I suspect that the recognition isn't there. It isn't something that people have realized, that she is that accomplished."
Chavez's prints are lusciously detailed self-portraits, with a twist. In one image, her head wears a crown of plucked chicken wings; in another she holds up a string of chicken feet as though they're a fancy necklace. Tavera said that on one level, the prints romanticize domestic life in Mexico.
"At the same time she's also referencing maybe underlying violence and issues that they're dealing with day to day," she said. "So it's almost romanticizing domesticity, and at the same it's not easy. There are some challenges here that we're talking about."
Edith Chavez is in town this week for the opening reception of "Sus Voces" and will demonstrate her printmaking techniques this Saturday at Highpoint.
Gallery director Jess Krueckeberg said this is the 12th international print show Highpoint has hosted. She finds this one to be a particularly exciting selection of contemporary work.
"It's what they're experiencing right now in their daily lives — their political concerns, daily routine, personal philosophies — within ... an underrepresented portion of the art world," she said. "These are people who don't normally get to have their voices heard."
The exhibition is part of the Guerrilla Girls Twin Cities Takeover. Kreuckeberg said that's fitting, since the Guerrilla Girls are all about empowering the disenfranchised, as these women are.
"Sus Voces: Women Printmakers from Mexico" opens with a public reception and gallery talk this Friday at Highpoint Center for Printmaking in Minneapolis. It runs through March 26.