Voces Exhibition Opening + Artist talk:

On October 26, Professor Mandy Cano Villalobos introduced her work at the opening of her solo exhibition, Voces, in Calvin’s Center Art Gallery. I’ll begin with a few things you should know about Professor Cano(‘s work).

Who is Mandy Cano-Villalobos?
She is an artist, a painting professor at Calvin, a Christian, a mother. During her artist talk, she touched on how each of these parts of her identity inform how she creates art.

What kind of art does she do?
Visit her website, there you can find multiple projects, artist statements, cv + bio.
See her work for yourself at the Center Art Gallery exhibition.
Her art is a combination of installation and performance. She uses process oriented materials such as a needle and thread to create pieces that speak of the injustices in Latin American countries. She described the Voces show/project as “the work[(VERB)] of art as an act of memory”. Cano reveals and makes room for memory via redundant activities, such as sewing. Memory is brought to the forefront either through conversations over sewing circles, or solo sewing and quiet meditation.

Why does she focus on injustices in Latin America?
For a small period of her childhood, Cano lived in El Paso and visited the nearby city of Juárez . In her adulthood, the presentation of Juárez in the media “clashed with her memory”. The incentive of her work fits somewhere between raising social awareness and commemorating murdered and disappeared individuals. During the question portion of her artist talk, Cano addressed why it is important for her, as a US citizen, to make this work, “I have more of a likelihood of being listened to… Someone who speaks English needs to speak out for these women”, people in the US aren’t listening to those advocating in Spanish.

What is Voces?
The Voces (Voices) exhibit specifically deals with femicides in Juárez Mexico beginning in 1993. At the centre of the exhibition are white shirts hung on cross-shaped mannequins with names of murdered woman stitched in pink thread. Surrounding the ghostly figures are shrines, each dedicated to an individual woman. Cano has been working on this piece for four years, both individually and with groups/sewing circles. Over the past year she has met weekly with a group of Mexican women, Betty, Nancy, Lulu, Delia, Rosa, Judith, Celia and others. Each Friday of the show, volunteers will continue the record making by sewing names of women. Next to the sewing circle are piles white shirts, yet to be embroidered. The stacks are neatly folded, but unsettling in number. It is important to note the injustices are not over. Cano has chosen to sew names of murdered women up until 2007, however this is not because women are safe. An increase in murders has made it unclear which instances can be categorized as a femicide.

What is the Background of the Juárez Femicides?
This femicide is not a singular event, but references killings of women because they are women. Cano referred to the factors of the femicide as a “perfect storm”: 1. an influx of women in Juárez for work 2. spousal abuse as working women challenge traditional gender power politics 3. rape and murders speculated as initiation for groups including police. The list went on and meshed together.

Voces is not a simple project. Each name requires research, finding the name of a murdered woman in a corrupt, patriarchal society is not easy. I have seen professor Cano emotionally spent from the project, and can only imagine the heaviness of carrying on multiple projects dealing with injustice in Latin America. She finds hope, the following is taken from her N.N. (Ningún Nombre) artist statement, “I become increasingly aware of the unattainable nature of my goal. However, I continue to sew. Perhaps the significance of my act lies less in achieving the goal and more in the persistence of the action.”
Professor Cano’s work cannot be passively viewed; Voces is more than a title of a single project, it is a description of her work(verb), she is raising awareness and inviting the viewers “into the stillness” an opportunity to listen, learn, and ask ourselves “how do we treat our neighbours?”
There will be a screening of the documentary Juárez: the city Where the Women are Disposable.
Thursday, November 15, 3:30, Speolhof 150

Voces is funded by the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship, the Calvin Alumni Association, the Calvin departments of art and art history, Spanish, Sociology and Social Work, Gender Studies, and the Pailalen Program, Lutheran Child and Family Service of Michigan.

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