Review: Mexican Textile Artist Yosi Anaya Highlights Significance of Traditional Crafts

Continuity Re-Inscribed is the first solo exhibition in Ireland by Mexican Textile Artist, Yosi Anaya, in CIT Wandesford Quay Gallery, Cork. Anaya was also the keynote speaker for the MAKE 2015 Symposium, now in its second year, which focuses on contemporary concerns around making. The MAKE series of Symposia is hosted by the CIT Crawford College of Art and Design’s BA (Hons.) Degree in Contemporary Applied Arts: Ceramics/Glass/Textiles. Contemporary art and craft practice is becoming more intrinsically linked, and current debate around making is growing in strength. MAKE 2015 focused on Remaking Tradition: traditional skill as it is sampled, mixed, and transformed. Yosi Anaya’s research and practice addresses the role of the traditional in the crossings of contemporary art practices. In Mexico, she works directly with indigenous makers to produce her beautiful art work.

Yosi Anaya is an eminent authority on indigenous textiles of Latin America. She is a Research Docent at Veracruz University, Mexico and she has participated in more than 100 group exhibitions (among them the Lodz Textile Triennale, the 5th World Textile Art Biennial as Invited Artist) and has had more than 25 solo shows in México, USA and Europe. She has obtained various prizes and honorable mentions in international biennials and art competitions.

Yosi Anaya’s Cork show is organised as an Imaginary Museum; this body of work has come about through ten years of research into indigenous textiles of Mesoamerican women. As you enter the gallery you are greeted by a large printed manifesto and a suspended wall of brightly coloured banners operating as the entrance to the ‘museum’. Other elements of the museum experience are hinted at and also subverted in the exhibition. Museum labels traditionally used to aid anthropological display are transformed into an ethereal installation, one of several installations that line the gallery.

Silk Huipiles float about your head in another large suspended grouping, elevated to the level of significance that these traditional women’s garments should occupy in Mexican culture. Traditionally made of cotton with back strap loom patterning, the rich intrinsic brocade motifs are digitally transferred to silk which allows the viewer to experience these indigenous textiles in a way which would be impossible in a traditional museum display. We are invited to walk through and brush against these huipiles, which offer a colourful, almost forest-like experience of soft, translucent, and light-filtering layers.

The art of daily life is celebrated in the Shadow Women that occupy a large corner of the gallery floor. Miniature printed silk huipiles, a garment type also used to adorn statues and saints, now cover each small, individual cutout and lacquered figure, frozen in a powerful and graceful pose. This installation refocuses the historic gaze towards Mesoamerican indigenous women toward one of admiration. These women have resisted conquest and prejudice, marginalization and economic severity; they are endangered yet continue; they have deep meaning and yet are also viewed as commodities. The lives of these women, as well as the lives of their makers, are inserted into our multifarious present.

Yosi Anaya also presented a series of videos highlighting the culture of Mesoamerican women, and a set of large, canvas-printed photographic portraits hung loosely, each of a Mexican woman in traditional dress hiding her face from view.

His Excellency Carlos Garcia de Alba, Mexican Ambassador to Ireland touched on this in his opening speech. “From ancient times women have been present in huipiles and blankets to tapestries for the decoration of palaces. Woven fabrics of all kinds made way for the industrial revolution. But the art of women has not bowed despite the most sophisticated technologies,” says Garcia de Alba. “On the contrary, as we have seen in the 20th century and today, modern technology is at the service of the Fine Arts—a lesson that should be explored in other areas of life.”

Continuity Re-Inscribed is on until March 28 at CIT Wandesford Quay Gallery.

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