Nao Bustamante: Soldadera
Vincent Price Art Museum presents Soldadera, a multi-media exhibition that marks artist Nao Bustamante’s solo West Coast museum debut. Soldadera presents a variety of projects inspired by the women who fought during the Mexican Revolution (1910-20). Soldadera is curated by Jennifer Doyle, Professor of English at the University of California Riverside.
The exhibition Soldadera opens on May 16 and continues through August 1, 2015. The opening reception will take place on Saturday, May 16, 4:00-6:00 p.m., and is free to all.
S y n o p s i s
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.
Soldadera List of Works
Tierra y Libertad - Kevlar® 2945, 2010
Test Shoot, 2011
Kevlar Fighting Costume (title TBD), 2015
Gallina, Post Revolucíon, Circa 1920
Peacock in profile, Circa 1978
Kevlar® touching station, 2015
Photo-collage TBD, 2015
A r t i s t B i o g r a p h y
Nao Bustamante studied New Genres at the San Francisco Art Institute where she earned her MFA in 2001. Currently, she holds the position of Associate Professor of New Media and Live Art at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. She has exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Sundance Festival, Utah; and the Kiasma Museum of Helsinki, Finland. Her movies have been shown at Outfest in Los Angeles; Mix in New York City; Sundance International Film Festival; among many other festivals. Bustamante was a Benson Research Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin in 2013.
G u e s t C u r a t o r
The exhibition is guest curated by Jennifer Doyle, Professor of English at the University of California Riverside and author of Hold It Against Me: Difficulty and Emotion in Contemporary Art. Doyle is also Managing Director of Human Resources Los Angeles, an all-volunteer experimental art space in Chinatown. Soldadera is supported by Queer Lab at UC Riverside, by the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts, and by KCET Artbound.
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