Artist: Sheila Garrett Rodriguez
Exhibition: Were We Even Here
Media: wallpaper, drywall, oil on canvas, acrylic (Space is Inside); window screen, embroidery floss, yarn (Screened In I and Screened In II); oil on canvas, embroidery floss, yarn (No Trespassing: Borders and Bodies); metal screen, plaster, yam (From the Rubble and Folding Rubble); window screen, embroidery floss, paper (House For Sale); her grandmother’s chair, hand-dyed yarn (Here Take This Seat); grandmother’s bed frame, cochineal, hand-dyed yam, embroidery floss (But It’s Your Great-Grandmother’s Bed); iPhone video documentation (When I’m Gone)
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Gatov Gallery East and Gatov Gallery West
About the Artist
Sheila Garrett Rodriguez is a student working on her MFA in the fiber art program at CSULB. In her artist statement, Sheila Rodriguez says that she has lived in over 30 homes in her lifetime and often wonders if any changes she had made are still a part of the house she once called her own. As a Chicana and a native Californian, Rodriguez says that she has experienced an open, multicultural society where she has felt a strong pull toward her Mexican heritage. Rodriguez wonders if the identity in one’s home defines who they are. “I’m really digging into why I do some of the things I do; why we are who we are,” Rodriguez said in a piece in the September 27 issue of the Daily 49er.
The exhibition contains multiple pieces, each containing aspects of home. The “When I’m Gone” video documentation portrays things that a person would do at home throughout their day, such as cutting cucumbers, making scrambled eggs, sewing, and making a bowl of salsa. “Screened In I,”“Screened In II,” and “House For Sale” use window screens that have been decorated with yarn that creates a pattern of flowers on them. “No Trespassing: Borders and Bodies” is a painting with a black background that is decorated with the same floral patterns seen on the window screens used in other pieces in this exhibit. In the painting, a naked human body with a back turned to the viewer is holding up a string of barb wire in each hand. Instead of seeing her head, we see a house behind two more pieces of barb wire, whereas the person’s body is on the opposite side of the barb wire. “But It’s Your Great-Grandmother’s Bed” uses red dye from the dried scales of the cochineal bug, a red dye that was used by the Mayans and even by, according to Rodriguez, Starbucks in their strawberries and cream frappucinos.
According to the artist’s statement, the exhibition is about “the role that the physical and symbolic act of homebuilding plays within the construction of identity. “No Trespassing: Borders and Bodies” is focused on space, and what space really is home. Through this painting, Rodriguez asks if home is the persona space within oneself or the exterior, physical representation of a house.” Of “But It’s Your Great-Grandmother’s Bed,” Rodriguez said that she tried to show how household objects like it can be so much more than simply an object. Rodriguez placed red dye cochineal on and scratched away at the bed, which would cause red dye to fall on the floor as if it had deteriorated, which was used to reflect the history that the bed has with the family. The window screens and other parts used, obtained from scraps, were repurposed when used in the exhibit. They and the flowers on the window screens are also used to show history. These household objects and pieces of homes may be abandoned by people, but nature will take over them. Though taken over by nature and abandoned, these objects can be found and used to tell our stories. Rodriguez is trying to show how these objects have history with the people they share homes with. She said that people will often just see household objects as things to use that are occupying space, but they actually inform our world and say things about us.
Synthesis / My Experience
As a Chicano myself, I found the shared cultural background to be something that immediately drew my attention. I recognized many of the things in the in the exhibit, such as the actions in the video, all of which are things I see in my life daily. I often find myself having a hard time with discarding items because I always feel like I still have a relationship with those items. In looking at the exhibit, I too found myself questioning what home is. The items in a home are a part of us, because we choose them and have relationships with them. I believe that “Were We Even Here” tells us that the items in our homes are pieces of our life stories, and home is what we make it.
A link to the Daily 49er story mentioned in the About the Artist section: