Peruvian artists who combine creative practice with social justice to demonstrate how art can preserve a culture's identity in the face of adversity, while also proposing contemporary changes. These resilient artists have, amidst tumultuous challenge, created works that act as records of cultural evolution and link the known past to an unknown future.
Such works are celebrated in Crafting Memory: The Art of Community in Peru at the Museum of International Folk Art. The exhibit shows how 17 Peruvian folk artists use historic traditions, such as weaving, retablo-making and silversmithing, to craft a modern vision through political, economic and environmental lenses.
"When we look at folk arts from Peru, we may imagine them springing from traditional life—small communities insulated from a frantic world, where change occurs very slowly and the daily pace is set by agricultural cycles," Amy Groleau, the museum's curator of Latin American folk art and the curator of Crafting Memory, writes in a press release. "While this is sometimes the case, it is becoming increasingly rare. In fact, much of today's Peruvian folk art is emerging from its urban centers."
Contemporary work in the exhibit is displayed alongside historic pieces already in the museum's collection to illustrate the connection and transformation of each across time. Practicing artists include Ruta Mare and Amapolay, two collectives that use screen-printing to make posters, T-shirts and stickers
emphasizing solidarity among the internal migrant populations of Lima. Designer and contemporary artist Qarla Quispe is also featured and scheduled to appear at the exhibition opening to share the woodblock-printed fabric designs she uses to create traditional polleras (Andean gathered skirts).
Many works further address intense waves of change that Peru has experienced over the last 40 years. In 1969, the government seized farmland and began issuing agrarian reform bonds to poorer citizens in efforts to redistribute land to small-scale farmers, but this act prefaced an economic collapse in the late 1970s that lasted through the '80s. The country saw hyperinflation as well as two currency replacements, which essentially made the bonds of 1969 worthless. This was followed by a particularly violent 20-year span that claimed 70,000 lives during conflicts between government military forces and Maoist revolutionary organization Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path); the government then completely stopped honoring the bonds in 1992. Crafting Memory demonstrates how the local artists helped rebuild a sense of unity through continued hardship.
"I don't want people to see the show and think Peru has so many problems," Groleau tells SFR. "I want people to see how artists have really creative ways of building community strength through roots work and cultural foundations."
Many of the featured artists share their stories through their art and leadership of social justice movements. For example, Ruta Mare and Amapolay host workshops and street fairs to promote the mix of rural heritage and urban life while fostering a sense of pride among young immigrants in Lima; Quispe operates Warmichic, a business that aims to honor the rural Indigenous heritage of young women living in Lima.
"Crafting Memory shows that artwork doesn't just reflect community," Groleau further tells SFR. "Artwork helps create community. Part of this happens in asserting your right to remember and share the collective history; to create a 'we' instead of an 'I.'"
The opening reception includes dance and music workshops, food provided by the Women's Board of the Museum of New Mexico, and tunes from Baracutanga, an Albuquerque-based seven-piece band with members from Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and the US who put a contemporary spin on traditional South American music (and, just a heads-up: Their music will probably make you dance). The
experience continues with a printmaking workshop led by Quispe at the Española Valley Fiber Arts Center (which we just talked about in our Nov. 15 issue—A&C: "Fiber Fever") on Tuesday Dec. 5; learn more at evfac.org.
Crafting Memory: The Art of Community in Peru
1-4 pm Sunday Dec. 3. $6-$12; free for New Mexico residents.
Museum of International Folk Art,
706 Camino Lejo, 476-1200