Julia in her studio
Julia Arredondo is a print media artist who is originally from Corpus Christi, Texas and just finished her first year towards her MFA in Print Media at Columbia College Chicago . Her understanding of the terms object, item and material go as follows:
- Object: Something physical; solid; made; precious
- Item: Linesheet, quantity listed, unit, not as precious as an object. There is a sense of generality surrounding the word.
- Material: Exists at the beginning of the manufacturing process. It can be understood as the raw makeup of item and object before they take shape.
During my studio visit, Julia described what it was like to grow up as a Latinx individual. Her Mexican-American identity informs her artistic practice, it bring together a discussion of different cultures that Julia has been exploring her whole life. A lot of Julia’s work is influenced by botánicas or a storefront that offers spiritual goods, oils, candles herbs and various services. In a general, Western sense, a botánica can be understood as an alternative space where individuals seek physical/spiritual/emotional help. Under this surface level understanding, and using the Western approach to such spaces, a botánica can be seen as taboo. The Western understanding of spaces that use alternative methods of healing/spirituality/guidance (some may even say “magic”) tend to be demonized due to a major disparity in ethnographic understanding of practices. Julia finds strength in connecting with botánica culture; they are spaces in which she attended, utilized, and found herself reflecting upon her Latinx identity. It is from botánicas that Julia borrows objects that come to symbolize her Latinx identity, and she alters them to embody her current needs.
Working within the context of punk-DIY culture, Julia created ViceVersa Press in 2011. The press originally began as a publisher of zines, but slowly evolved into a lifestyle brand that helps to distribute affordable alternative lifestyle goods. In 2016, Julia founded Curandera Press. Curandera became a space exploring the Latinx identity, how it evolves, and the goods that tend to be associated with the Latinx community. Working with objects that tend to be associated with botánicas and other Latinx spaces, Julia began to produce altars, veladoras (votive candles), ritual soil, and prayer books/zines. Julia crafts each of these to work for current needs: student debts, supporting local botánicas, bad hair day, heartbreak, anxiety surrounding the current political climate in the United States, or finding bandmates. Using Curandera Press, Julia is able to sell these products widely. After working with zines and seeing how punk culture produced handmade objects that required lots of time and energy from someone, she began to take an interest in how commodities work. I have found that Julia’s pieces are personal and genuine. While her products are duplicated (mass produced?), Julia ensures that each piece remains true to her practice, herself, and the ideas she upholds.
Student Debt Be Gone Veladora as a gift (left) & Trump Burnable Sigil (right)
Artist have the potential, to make us aware (or to create awareness) of the dual nature of objects by transforming them into art. Marcel Duchamp overturned a urinal to question what an art object is, Tracey Emin placed her bed into a gallery to embody depressive episodes, Senga Nengundi danced with tights that were stretched on a wall to discuss oppression, Felix Gonzalez Torres took pieces of candy and embodied his lost lover in their sweetness. The objects in the examples above still maintain their original form (some are altered by the artist), but their original meaning has been changed. Objects have multiple personas, similar to how humans have characteristics that seem to evolve with a situation or change over time. Or, the object may retain multiple understandings for one individual. Julia’s artistic practice embodies this understanding: she takes pieces that are important to her, to her Latinx identity and community, but changes the products for her daily needs.
Zines from Vice Versa and Curandera
After meeting with Julia in her studio, I have also come to think about how objects create relationships. As a present, Julia offered me one of her veladoras: Student Debt Be Gone. And in giving it to me, she also taught me how objects, no matter what way we think of them or how many meanings they may hold, are still ways of connecting to each other.
Next up // June 15th: Artist Spotlight - Kimberly English
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