This exhibition is a creative engagement with soldaderas (Spanish for “female soldiers”) as imagined figures, and as actual women with their own histories. Today, we know the soldadera through a romantic tradition that idealizes her: in song and on the silver screen she is celebrated for traditionally feminine values (for her beauty, for example, or for supportive labor such as cooking and maintaining the camp). In this exhibition, Bustamante deploys a methodology she calls “speculative re-enactment.” She asks: How can we reach across time to know the soldadera’s experience of the past? How do we bring her into the here and now, to experience her future?
The artist’s search for the soldadera’s wisdom culminated in a unique pilgrimage: Bustamante traveled to Guadalajara, Mexico, to meet 127-year-old Soldadera Leandra Becerra Lumbreras, the last survivor of the Mexican Revolution, and notably the oldest person in the world. Their transformative meeting inspired work that will be featured in this exhibition, as well as an ongoing documentary project. Leandra, at times referred to as La Abuela del Mundo, passed over to the next life on March 19, 2015. We mourn her loss and are grateful for her contributions to the Soldadera project.
Bustamante creates hybrid works that hover over the line between fact and fiction, between the past and the future, and engage the soldadera’s capacity, as a figure, to signify vulnerability and violence. The artist places women inside historical scenes from which they are normally elided, and also imagines the soldadera protected by contemporary combat materials. Bustamante’s historically appropriate, period-specific dresses made from Kevlar© add a sculptural element to this exhibition. Kevlar© is a modern material used in personal protection products such as combat helmets and ballistic vests. The artist fired shots at one of her frocks using weapons and ammunition appropriate to the period of the Mexican Revolution. This “fighting costume” will be on view, displayed as an artifact of a fantastical battle. Finally, several of the dresses will be featured in a live performance during the opening of the exhibition.
Location: Vincent Price Art Museum
Date: May 16 – August 1, 2015