04 January 2015

Margarita Cabrera at the Museum of the Southwest

Margarita Cabrera
Here and Now Gallery
Museum of the Southwest
Midland, Texas
November 22 – December 30, 2014

Margarita Cabrera is the final artist of the Contemporary Artist Series of 2014 hosted by the Museum of the Southwest in Midland, Texas. Born in Monterey, Mexico, Cabrera moved to the United States at the age of 10, later studying in Baltimore and Hunter College in New York City before returning southwest to the border city of El Paso, Texas. The artist appropriates techniques and subject matter from various sources most relevant to her own heritage as a Mexican-American artist.

The influence of Oldenburg’s soft sculpture and Pop Art is obvious in the exhibition. Cabrera embraces this work as a focus on the everyday struggles of immigrants and their families with common object while enabling an easy approach and dialogue of the subject. Bicycles and a backpack, complete with food and bolt cutters, are among the references to objects that are found in border patrol stations near El Paso and Juarez. The sagging sculptures look as tired as the people that they represent, of miles travelled, years of worry and labor conditions on both sides of the border. To enhance these realities, Cabrera works with immigrant populations in constructing her work, focusing on sewing and leaving the excess threads exposed and hanging from the sculpture.

Paramount to the exhibition and Cabrera’s layering of concepts are the cloth cacti from the Space in Between Series (2010). The eloquent combination of immigrant culture, from politics to craft and aesthetics, comprise the most intriguing perspective of life along the United States/Mexico border. The series was created within a large immigrant neighborhood in Houston. Individuals were asked to recreate a cactus that they had a particular experience with using border patrol uniforms. In addition to this creation, narratives are sewn or embroidered into many of the finished cacti. The layering of personal experience and information, including the viewers ability to walk through as an interactive component of the series speaks of a space that is very apparent but also fluctuates between dualities, ultimately creating a synthesis without a specific answer to one of the country’s most political topics. A lonely and dangerous desert, while also part of the American landscape, becomes a liminal space for transformation.

Cabrera has an impressive variation of work of over more than a decade working within the themes of metaphorical and physical boundaries, empowerment, community-based art and culturally relevant craft. The art in the exhibit includes soft sculpture and ceramic work from 2005 to 2010 and not overall indicative of her wide-ranging approaches including video, performance and installation. Cabrera remains busy creating work and exhibiting nationally with work in El Paso, Salt Lake City, Dallas, Houston, University of Southern California, Seattle Museum of Art and The Smithsonian in the past year alone. In addition, the artist continues her project Iron Will, a community-based public art sculpture to be located on a roundabout in El Paso as part of her Uplift Public Art project.