By Aria Dean
While the autumn winds raged outside, a small group of students and faculty members gathered in La Casa Hispanica last Saturday for the opening of the Latino/a Student Artwork Showcase as a part of Latino/a Heritage Month. The show featured photography, sculptures, drawings, and paintings from a handful of students in order to bring attention to the creative works and contributions of the Latino/a community.
The visual arts are a large part of Latino culture and history; some of the 20th century’s most renowned artists include Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and José Clemente Orozco. With this in mind, it seemed fitting to the show’s organizer, Krista LaFentres ‘14, that this month’s Latino/a Heritage Month festivities include the visual arts. Speaking about her goals for the show, LaFentres said, “[I wanted] to showcase Latino/a student talent in the visual arts. I haven’t experienced very much of that in my short time on campus. There is a good amount of dancing and music and such, but not a lot of visual art from the Latino/a community.”
Hosting this art show was a way to create a forum for and draw attention to Latino/a artists on Oberlin’s campus. Additionally, LaFentres hopes to inspire further interest and involvement in the college’s Latino/a community.
Many of the pieces in the show were not only produced by Latino/a students, but also dealt with issues pertaining to Latin American culture or politics. LaFentres wanted to “showcase the art of any students that relate to the Latino/a world.” Some of the show’s artwork comes from students who have traveled abroad and took photographs, students who have visited Latin or South America, or are from there themselves.
First-year Gabriela Garcia’s photography reflects her Venezuelan roots by capturing the country’s landscapes and people. Her work juxtaposes the nostalgia and beauty of her home country with its political and social problems. As Garcia sees it, an exhibit like this one is a chance to “[be] proud of the place you come from, of your identity, acknowledge both the good and the bad of it all – and even go a step further and try to fix it.”
Other student artists’ work paid homage to cultural history and tradition as well. A series of small works by Emma Gardner ‘13 incorporated Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) skeletons in a nod to the Mexican holiday.
The art show communicated the perspectives and experiences of the Oberlin Latino/a community to other Oberlin students, and it also highlighted the different perspectives and experiences that exist in a single cultural group. The show, although small, created a space for varying artistic voices to be heard.