Cihuatl is the word for “woman” in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec people who lived in central Mexico until they were wiped out by Cortez. Thus the exhibit Cihuatl, Mujer, Woman speaks to the effects of—and responses to—cultural history by painters Ruby Chacón, Veronica Perez and Maritza Torres.
How are history, tradition and events in the past that helped shape them into who they are embodied in their works? These works portray something essential about being women that persists from historical through present-day Mexico, and the ambivalence of assimilation into American culture—as the show’s title suggests—while maintaining their individuality and Hispanic identity. The tension of all these elements is palpable.
Chacón—founder of Mestizo Coffeehouse and the Mestizo Institute of Culture & Arts (MICA)—is known for the organization’s support of arts, activism and cultural awareness in the area, as well as for her own emphatic body of work. Torres’ vivid colors and bold lines create what she calls “a psychotropic world of feminine heroes,” while the work of Perez is more arts & crafts-influenced. It’s a show not without ambiguity, as one of Perez’s paintings (pictured) depicts a shackled hand emerging from flames, holding a human heart aloft, referencing the Aztec practice of human sacrifice. You might be tempted to read it as a symbol for women’s suffering, but the message of the show is one of strength and solidarity. (Brian Staker)
Cihuatl, Muher, Woman @ Art Access Gallery, 230 W. 500 South, No. 125, 801-328-0703, through March 9, free. AccessArt.org
Date: Mar 1, 2012
Time: 6 pm
Address: 230 S. 500 West, Salt Lake City, 84101
Where: Art Access Gallery