By Natalia Chilcote
Boston, MA – In celebration of International Women’s Day, visiting the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts to view the exhibit, “Mujeres: Poetic Revelations of Our Lives,” while artists Silvia Lopez Chavez and Nora Valdez were both in attendance.
Against the white walls of the IBA Gallery, bright shades of pink, turquoise and green surround Silvia Lopez Chavez’s canvassed face as she puffs out her cheeks in harsh concentration. The kaleidoscope of tiny air ‘bubbles’ escaping her pursed lips capture the moment just before she gives in. On the wall to the right, a video loops, replaying Chelsea residents engaged in similar activity. Joining them as well as the life-sized portraits of nine of these Chelsea residents, Chavez’s self-portrait, “Hold Your Breath’, serves as a point of conversation surrounding the dysfunctional structures that have created inadequate healthcare resources for Chelsea residents as well as an increase in environmental pollution, diminished air quality and a marked onset of diseases within the population.
Describing herself as a ‘very positive person,’ Chavez’s unique color schemes, the monographed architectural buildings and uniquely stenciled bubbles layering her portraits also tell the audience that she loves her city of residence and the people that form it. Her artwork is a celebration of Chelsea’s cultural and historical diversity and a testament to the lives that have shaped it over the years. Difficult, painful discussions are not underscored, but re-purposed through thematic uses of joy and humor within Chavez’s pieces. In them, the individual is not alone during a time of crisis; he or she walks a common struggle with his or her neighbor, seeking solutions to systemic problems in the heart of the community itself.
Nora Valdez has been exhibiting her work since 1977. As a traveling artist, she has lived in and worked in numerous countries. Her sculptures inspire reflection on the nature of impermanence, of change and transition. In these sculptures, however, there is a captured movement that is electric and unmistakeable in its intensity. These women possess a life that extends beyond the limestone that limits them. They collectively and symbolically carry a house up a steep staircase; they stand at stone crossroads with their back to the past; their bodies bend to accept the heavy weight of their personal sacrifices.
The figures in Valdez’s collections often show little facial detail and lack the presence of expressive limbs, something that enables them to encapsulate universal experiences of women understood across cultural and linguistic barriers. Their ambiguous features speak to the social invisibility that affect migrant communities, laborers, survivors of torture and underprivileged populations. Valdez’s preparatory sketches also present profound reflections on loss, grief and memory. The women in these images reach up to the sky, lie down side by side and face the road’s challenges head-on. Valdez’s artwork is on a continuous journey towards its own self-discovery, either in shadow or out of stone, whose message essentially reflects and should inform our own.
(Silvia and Nora’s collective exhibit will be on display at the Villa Victoria’s IBA Gallery through April 22, 2015. More information on individual pieces and additional work can be found at ibaboston.org or on the individual artists’ sites, silvialopezchavez.com and noravaldez.com)