Artist: Shiela Garret Rodriguez
Exhibition: Were We Even Here
Gallery: Max L. Gatov Gallery East
Media: Various media, embroidery floss, wallpaper, yarn, plaster
Sheila Garret Rodriguez is a native to California and student at California State University Long Beach pursuing her Master of Fine Arts in Fiber. She is a mother of three girls ages 11, 16, and 18. Shiela was an undergrad who graduated from CSULB with her degree in painting. Shiela comes from a Hispanic and Polish background, but Were We Even Here was made to shed light on her Hispanic culture mostly. She states she does not fluently know the Spanish language but has been inspired to maintain other aspects of her Hispanic culture in tact and passed down to her children in the hopes of teaching them the importance of knowing and understanding their own cultural background.
Shiela used several forms of media in her exhibit from yarn, embroidery floss, canvas, embroidery floss, etc. She states that she wanted to include a lot of man-made items in her work because she wants to prove that also as a woman, she’s knowledgeable enough to build and add a feminine touch to her work and things she creates. She incorporated her knowledge of paint and dry wall into the exhibit as well. She also adds what is called a molcajete which is a stone grinding tool used in traditional Mexican households to crush and grind spices.
Shiela states that the idea of home space was her way of expressing the importance of both what goes on inside and outside of the home. Were We Even Here was made in response to her once feeling as if she was losing her sense and hold on her own Latin culture. She was also inspired to create something so culturally significant because of her lack of experience of her own culture in her studies. She wishes more Latina/Latino men and women would step up within the field of art. So as a result, she felt very strongly about wanting to incorporate different aspects of how she identifies herself in her own work in order to raise awareness of more Latin artists. She focuses on the idea of the home as a place where your identity is founded on and how important it is to keep the importance of who you are in tact. She stresses this because she stated that she had moved from home to home more than 30 times which she felt was the culprit as to how she felt she was losing her sense of home and ultimately her sense of identity because her idea of home was not grounded but constantly “moving.”
Shiela’s exhibit was something I could really relate to because I am only part Hispanic as well and also never learned the language growing up so I definitely could feel the distance between my own self and where I came from. Most of my life I had grown up on an island in the Pacific where I had grown accustomed to cultural traditions and family values, but I lost the grasp on the other part of who I was. Moving to California, where I was given the opportunity to learn more about my Hispanic culture, was a complete culture shock. But unfortunately, I’ve now lost my grasp on the culture of the island, the language, etc., and it is upsetting when I thought I’d be able to keep a firm hold on it even though I moved almost half way across the globe. So I understand how Shiela feels the need to stress how the home is a foundation for recognizing who we are. I really enjoyed her exhibit because I could relate to a lot of the issues she brings up within each piece as a part of recognizing who she is, the importance of the home and what goes on inside of it.