October 17, 2021 #1 Local News, Forum, Information and Event Source for Venice Beach, California.

SPARC’s Durón Gallery Exhibit On Oaxaca Charged With Emotion

Juana Martinez.
Juana Martinez.

It’s approaching 2 am. Juana Martinez’s flight from Mexico arrived at LAX hours ago. Her crisp new passport is in the hands of a doubtful homeland security agent. One can’t blame her skepticism. She knows the tell tale signs of a fake passport. Martinez has never traveled to the United States, her passport issued only two days prior contains nothing but stiff new pages and a freshly printed visa.

A visa she has earned through her work as an artist. Her visa grants her 20 days in the United States and she comes here as one of 19 featured artists in SPARC’s latest exhibition “New Codex: Oaxaca – Immigration and Cultural Memory.”

Waiting, anxious, on the other side in the LAX arrivals area is Martinez’s son. For him this is like that last, almost unbearable moment, just before you break the water’s surface as you swim up for air. He has not seen his mother in a decade.

“We were very poor, there was nothing and I was the man of the family so there was no choice. I had to go,” he said.

Like so many before him and since, Martinez’s son made the treacherous border crossing. He was only 13 years old.

“There was no water or food and we were in the desert for five days,” he said. “I was so scared. I thought I was going to die; I was so thirsty. I would ask for water and the people bringing us across told me to be quiet. They threatened to leave me in the desert. One man died. I still have nightmares about it.”

With more than one million Oaxacans having immigrated to the United States, the exhibit looks at the impact of immigration on those left behind: those who are often unable to see loved ones, husbands, mothers, and children for many years.

The opening night of SPARC’s latest exhibit was charged with emotion.

Martinez spoke about her art, works inspired by years spent mourning the loss of her son and the hardships faced in her town, San Francisco Tanivet in Oaxaca.

As she speaks her son breaks through the crowd and, tears streaming down his face, throws himself into his mother’s arms. There is not one dry eye in SPARC’s Durón Gallery.

“It’s very emotional,” said Martinez’s son, eyes red from crying. “I haven’t seen her in 10 years.”

He begins to tear up again as he squeezes his mother close trying to close the gap on the missing years.

Exhibit curator Marietta Bernstorff said there’s a lot of issues that society doesn’t talk about.

“It’s not just the struggle of crossing the border but what you leave behind and what you create on this side,” Bernstorff said. “What you leave behind is a culture, a home, children at a certain age, a wife or parent, and you expect them to be exactly the same when you return each time. If you return. Or if you wait 10 years, I mean, just imagine what that’s like. So psychologically a lot of these women had emotional issues and were not dealing with it well. They’re poor and, you know, they’re not going to therapy about it.”

The exhibit had its beginnings five years ago when Bernstorff traveled to Tanivet in Oaxaca.

She found a village in mourning.

“I met these women who don’t vote, who were at home all the time, and who’s children had a very limited education,” Bernstorff said. “They had no crafts and they had no understanding of the arts. For five years we taught them how to embroider, which we thought was a handy thing and that at least they’d end up with a skill of some sort. We showed them how to use color, concepts, techniques, and tell stories, personal stories as women. What’s your life like? What are you doing today? The farm the animals were obvious because that’s what they do, but then I asked, ‘What’s this other part about immigration that’s really difficult?’ and they began to tell their story about immigration. The loss of a husband, the loss of a child towards immigration. To talk to them on the phone but know you might never, ever, ever see them again.”

Bernstorff said the exhibit in itself is about immigration and cultural memory.

“We’re all immigrants, all of us come from somewhere else and cultural memory is something everybody should maintain in their brain,” she said. “To be just like everyone else sometimes isn’t the best thing.”

Now that five years have gone by, Bernstorff said these women are extremely creative.

“They’re very good at what they do, they have a talent, and people are wanting them in different shows,” Bernstorff said.

Debra J.T. Padilla is the Executive Director at SPARC. She said exhibit is “totally in line with the 40 year mission of SPARC. Which is to be a voice for the voiceless.”

The exhibit runs until Aug. 29 in SPARC’s Durón Gallery, located in the Old Venice Police Station at 685 Venice Blvd., Venice. For more information, visit sparcinla.org.

Related Posts

Pali High Debuts Fall Musical Avenue Q Live on Stage

October 12, 2021

October 12, 2021

Pali high students bring the musical Avenue Q to the stage for a limited time. Video brought to you by...

UCLA awarded $1 Million Dollars Towards Enabling Safer Bike Commutes

October 11, 2021

October 11, 2021

The Civic Bicycle Commuting team along with partners is one of six competitors for the Civic Innovation Challenge backed by...

Barn Owl Nesting Box Program Comes to The Westside.

October 5, 2021

October 5, 2021

The barn owl nesting box program from Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife is helping these birds create a network of...

Missing Woman Last Seen in Venice Beach

September 29, 2021

September 29, 2021

Jessie Jean-Baptiste last seen Saturday By Sam Catanzaro Police are seeking a missing 25-year-old woman last seen in Venice Beach...

Canstruction Fights Hunger Through Art

September 27, 2021

September 27, 2021

International hunger relief fundraiser Canstruction makes an appearance at the Westfield Century City mall and we have the highlights. Video...

The Rich History of Prehemptive CBD Creams

September 27, 2021

September 27, 2021

The following is a question and answer with Paul Herve, founder of Prehemptive CBD creams, based on the formulas of a botanical...

Top-Rated Poster Printing Services in Los Angeles

September 10, 2021

September 10, 2021

So you want a piece of promotional artwork that is eye-catching and makes a statement. Maybe you’re a store looking...

Comedian Fuquan Johnson One of 1 of 3 Dead Following Suspected Overdose at Venice Party

September 7, 2021

September 7, 2021

Early Saturday morning incident remains under investigation By Sam Catanzaro Comedian Fuquan Johnson was among one of three people who...

Gambling and Mental Health: Tips For The Casino

August 31, 2021

August 31, 2021

With the advent of online casinos, gambling has become a more popular pastime than ever before. It’s estimated that a...

Final Weekend of Marina Drive-In Movie Summer Series With New Movies Added

August 28, 2021

August 28, 2021

WHERE: Marina del Rey Boat Launch Ramp, 13477 Fiji Way at Parking Lot #2 COST: $20 per vehicle, per movie...

Market Report: What is the Difference Between a Peach and a Nectarine?

August 25, 2021

August 25, 2021

Today at the Santa Monica farmers market Murray Farms answers all of our stone fruit questions in this video brought...

Main Street Traffic Closures Return This Weekend

August 20, 2021

August 20, 2021

Sharing an Open Main Street back for second time this summer August 21 – 22 By Sam Catanzaro  The summer’s...

Venice Restaurants Vie for Michelin Stars

August 19, 2021

August 19, 2021

Prestigious guide returning to California next month By Kerry Slater The Michelin Guide is returning to California next month after...

Venice Outdoor Venues Offer Maskless Event Experience

August 15, 2021

August 15, 2021

When mask mandates were lifted across California last month, the citizens of Los Angeles County breathed a collective sigh of...

What to Wear When Attending the Breeders’ Cup 2021

August 13, 2021

August 13, 2021

Choosing the right clothing is a big part of the fun of going to a popular horse racing event such...