Words by Josue Ramirez
Edited by Abigail Vela
Screen printing emerged as a powerful tool in El Movimiento Chicano of the 60’s and 70’s for artists’ cultural expression, political activism, and community empowerment. Since then, the art form and those who use it have diversified in style, method, and aesthetic. Their influence within contemporary art and progressive Latinx spaces also grew. Despite the changes, what remains the same is the power that screen printing has to unite artists in creating and using art for education and activism.
To follow in those footsteps and to create new opportunities for Rio Grande Valley artists, Trucha launched the Movimiento Screen Printing Fellowship. Selected artists Cielo Zuñiga, Ruby Delgado and Savannah Muñoz learned screen printing under the guidance of Austin Linkinholder of Tree Haus Creative in a month-long program.
Meeting three times a week in the Trucha Studios, the fellows learned the screen printing basics and got some one-on-one feedback regarding their socially engaged proposals.
The fellows designed, emulsified, made their seps (screen printing slang for separations), burned their screens and printed their creations.
The RGV artists selected paired well; both proposals use screen printing as a call to action to work through mental and emotional trauma.
In movement spaces, dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression has not always been in vogue. Therapy and self-care, while more prevalent in general, are still not normal practices or priorities in Latinx communities or for artists and organizers on the frontlines of the fight for social justice.
Ruby and Savannah’s proposal focuses on a series of educational posters with holistic practices for dealing with feelings of anger and negative emotions that arise from toxic conditioning and unhealthy environments.
Both made a set of three posters; one shows a problem, the other explores the conflict and the third offers suggestions for resolutions to the issues in the previous. The duo also created a collaborative design and a screen-printed zine for participants to take.
“My first piece is about unmasking toxic behaviors and letting yourself be vulnerable,” Delgado states, “I would say that is a call to action; don’t bottle up your emotions, acknowledge your emotions, let others know if you are comfortable with that.”
In addition to visualizing issues like stress and anxiety, the artist provides tools like a box breathing exercise to improve their mental health. The collection orients the viewer through strong sentiments and invites them to work them out in a calm and focused manner.
Similarly, the work of Cielo Zuñiga challenges the viewer to some deep emotional work. Her proposal involves screen printing on found textiles to create cloth collages she photographed and edited into a looped 20-second video.
The subject of the video is Zuñiga’s grandmother, who is seated on a bed facing an open window. The image cuts to a close-up of her hands, then back to her staring longingly at the window. All this was done at 7 frames a second, each frame made with different colors, stitch patterns, textures and cuts of cloth.
Zuñiga wants to convey grieving as a process that is never-ending rather than “an action that is to be completed.” She considers grieving as an opportunity to mend ourselves, to attend to the tears and the cracks of our new reality with the bits and pieces that we still carry of our loved ones.
“There is an unending experience of grief when you lose someone, but there is a time when you not only experience the grief but also experience some sort of peace. I think that’s the alignment that I’m looking for or trying to portray,” Zuñiga states.
The fellowship pushed Zuñiga to lean into the multidisciplinary and to expand her use of screen printing. She found deeper meaning and intentionality in the found material, using her grandfather’s old shirts for example.
Her methodology, while more abstract, does carry meditative qualities that require introspection from the viewer. One can follow the threads and lace of the pieces or watch the video on repeat, noticing a different texture or sound every time.
The Movimiento Fellowship challenged the participating artists to learn and grow their screen printing skills. Both proposals were successful in expanding the content, format and manner in which screen printing continues to educate within movement spaces. All three of the artists’ work remind us that it is important to deal with heavy feelings and internal struggles.
The art made during the fellowship proposes we slow down to be self-observing so we may connect with ourselves in healthy ways. Because when we are in touch with our emotions and work through them, we can better continue in the fight for liberation with aligned minds.
The Movimiento Fellows exhibition “Aligned Mind” will be on display at the International Museum of Arts and Science from January 20th to February 20th. A free reception will be held on January 20th from 2-3 pm with light refreshments and music by the RGV Jazz Collective.
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