October 8, 2021 – January 30, 2022
Mujeres Nourishing Fronterizx Bodies: Resistance in the Time of COVID-19 is a multi-year project manifesting as a collaborative exhibition at MOCA Tucson. The exhibition represents the sustained work of two collectives interrogating the borderlands in Arizona: A duo of visual artists based in the United States, M. Jenea Sanchez and Gabriela Muñoz, alongside Ammi Robles and DouglaPrieta Trabajan (DPT), a colectiva of women based in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico, in particular Bertha Alicia Alvarado, Dulce Guadalupe Garcia, Higinia Arce, Matilde Sagaste, Rosalinda Sagaste Chavez, Trinidad Anguamea Brasil, and Victoria Niebles.
In the artists’ words, “the project explores food security, self-representation, and self-determination through a series of new works that examine what it means to nourish brown bodies alongside the U.S./Mexico border during a global pandemic.” The women of the colectiva are both students and experts of sustainable systems of survival, tending a communal garden, raising livestock, making clothing, constructing adobe bricks for building, all while living on the outskirts of a highly militarized border.
Inspired by their cooperative work, the artists Muñoz and Sanchez began to document and make artworks about the women and their grass roots organization. Eventually this documentation turned into a dialogue, consistent with the spirit of mutual education and exchange at DPT. The women of the colectiva asked to self-represent and to create their own archive and the artists shared their knowledge of mediums like photography, printmaking and filmmaking.
The presentation at MOCA is part of a continuum of exhibitions and venues for this sustained dialogue, which has been shown recently in different iterations at the Scottsdale Museum of Art, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, and in diverse public programs. Mujeres Nourishing Fronterizx Bodies presents a mixture of existing work that pre-dates the pandemic and newly commissioned work that is the result of correspondence and creation at a distance. MOCA’s exhibition examines representation––of self, other, and community––that plays out in this generous, ongoing conversation between Muñoz, Sanchez, Robles and the women of DPT.
The pandemic added an important dimension to the work on view at MOCA, which shifted over the course of the last year while the border remained closed to Mexican citizens. Working at a distance, Muñoz and Sanchez collaborated with the women on new video works, commissioned by MOCA. Overall the exhibition represents five years of conversation and collaboration between the American and Mexican collectives, and highlights the female experience in the borderlands and celebrates nourishment and creation in the midst of a humanitarian crisis at the border and a global health catastrophe.
The exhibition is organized by Laura Copelin, Curator-at-Large, and artists Gabriela Muñoz and M. Jenea Sanchez, with support from Alexis Wilkinson, Assistant Curator.
The exhibition is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, The Diane & Bruce Halle Foundation, and VIA Art Fund and Wagner Foundation. The project as a whole is funded with contributions from the Surdna Foundation through the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through the University of Arizona Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS:
DouglaPrieta Trabajan (DPT) began in 2003 as a grassroots self-help project in Agua Prieta, Sonora, just across the border from Douglas, Arizona. DPT’s purpose has always been to assist individuals and families in colonias populares, or poor neighborhoods, by developing local capacities for economic self-sufficiency. DPT operates under the belief that we can cultivate community, solidarity, and self-determination by making local neighborhoods more productive. Today, the centerpiece of their program is a permaculture demonstration site designed to teach families sustainable food production techniques including gardening, aquaculture, and small livestock raising. DPT seeks to reduce the cost of living and build an ethic of mutual aid among neighbors in order to reduce dependency on weak job markets, government assistance, charity, and border crossing. DPT is supported in part by Surdna Foundation/National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC). Research partners include Dr. John-Michael Warner, the University of Arizona’s Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Southwest Folklife Alliance.
Gabriela Muñoz is an artist whose work is rooted in her experiences as a migrant who lived in Arizona, undocumented, for more than a decade. A Latinx woman living in the Southwest, her practice is concerned with movements of social justice and racial equality. Her installations, printed works, and collaborations function as a growing archive that documents the stories and histories of individuals from communities that are underresourced and underestimated. Her work centers women of color and the spaces where they build a counternarrative that values power-sharing, peer-to-peer learning, and horizontal leadership models. An artist in service of other artists, Muñoz’s work as an arts administrator supports the development of BIPOC artists and culture bearers in the Southwest region through the development of artist-centric programs, grantmaking and creative partnerships. Muñoz is a 2020-2021 NALAC Catalyst for Change Award recipient, a 2019-2020 Mellon-Fronteridades Creative Scholar at the University of Arizona’s Confluence Center and is a fellow of both the Intercultural Leadership Institute and the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture’s Leadership Institute. Her work has been exhibited at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, the University of Arizona Art Museum, Juniata Museum of Art, the Mexican Consulate in Douglas, The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, and the U.S.-Mexico Border fence. Muñoz holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and a Master of Fine Arts in Printmaking from Arizona State University.
Ammi Robles was born in Mexico and raised in Agua Prieta, Sonora, a border town just a step away from the United States. Being presented with a border culture has allowed her to document life in both worlds through her artwork. Robles recently graduated from college in Arizona with an associate degree in communications. She currently works as a digital artist, performer, and photographer and aspires to pursue a career in acting and filmmaking. Her photography work has been showcased in Flagstaff, AZ, at the BORDER CROSS+ROADS exhibit featuring United States/Mexico Border Artists in Action, and her photographs were published by Yes! Magazine in the article “Border Wall Trumped by Art and Community.” Also, her short film Once Upon a Time en la Frontera was selected to be part of the screening “Muestra de Cine en la Frontera Sonora-Arizona.” As an English-Spanish interpreter, Robles has done work for organizations such as Alight (American Refugee Committee) and CAME (Migrant Shelter). Robles is a member and co-founder of a group of women artists from Sonora and Arizona called Las Fronterizas, where she participates as a creator, interpreter, coordinator, performer, and digital artist.
M. Jenea Sanchez was born and raised in Douglas, Arizona / Agua Prieta, Sonora. After receiving her MFA from Arizona State University in 2011, she returned to Douglas to pursue her career as an artist and educator. She is a fellow of the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture’s Leadership Institute, a 2020-2021 NALAC Catalyst for Change Award recipient, a 2019-2020 Mellon-Fronteridades Creative Scholar at the University of Arizona’s Confluence Center, and currently a faculty member at Cochise College in the Digital Media Arts Program. Sanchez’s work has been exhibited at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, the University of Arizona Art Museum, The Latino Museum of History, Art, and Culture, The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, and the U.S.-Mexico Border fence. She and her husband are the co-founders of Border Arts Corridor (BAC), a non- profit arts organization providing the borderlands community an immersive arts district through bi-national art walks, workshops, performances, public dialogues, and artist residencies. BAC was awarded a Governor’s Arts Award in 2020 and has been featured in the New York Times for producing binational art installations and performances on the U.S.- Mexico Border.
Image credit: Rosalinda Sagaste Chavez – Self Portrait. 2021. C-print. Courtesy the artist.