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Mazmanian Gallery talk highlights collaboration in creativity

Maddison Behringer / THE GATEPOST

By Ryan O’Connell

Associate Editor

By Heather Nuttall

Staff Writer

The Mazmanian Gallery hosted artist Lisa Iglesias to talk about her work and the importance of community in art Feb. 27. 

Art Professor Jennifer Dowling began by explaining the work of the Arts & Ideas committee, who sponsored the event. They “encourage interdisciplinary collaboration with an emphasis on social, political, and cultural issues, arts, and ideas,” she said.

Dowling then turned the floor to Art Professor Tim McDonald, who described Iglesias’ background. McDonald said she was born in Queens, New York and received her bachelor’s of arts from Binghamton University, as well as her master’s in fine arts from the University of Florida.

McDonald said Iglesias also attended individual residencies at institutions in the Dominican Republic, Finland, Provincetown, and Alaska, among others. He also said she works collaboratively with her mother Bodhild and sister Janelle as part of Las Hermanas Iglesias.

Iglesias began with a land acknowledgement, recognizing that where she works - South Hadley - is the ancestral land of the Nonotuck people. 

“The neighboring Indigenous nations who continue to be connected to this land also include the Nipmuc and the Wampanoag to the east, the Mohegan and Pequod to the south, the Mohican to the west, and the Abenaki to the north,” she said.

Iglesias introduced the talk as a “chronological tour” of her work, with deviations to focus on the familial connections and references that inspire her in the studio.

She said her mother was in attendance at the talk, which reminded her to show gratitude, thanking the Arts & Ideas committee, her friends, family, and “so many [other] people.

“I think that’s the main thing with making artwork - it’s a community endeavor, and I have so much gratitude to be here today and to share the work and a little bit of story with you,” she said.

She said her parents’ immigration story and her childhood in Queens, New York, influenced decision making throughout her life - especially growing up with family members in lots of different places.

Iglesias added growing up with three sisters, she’s always thought of herself within the context of a community.

She said, “A lot of the work that I make has to do with groupings and about how meaning is made through association, through grouping, and through making meanings through constellation of either proximity or repetition of imagery.”

Iglesias described her early work with concrete in 2013, partially inspired by aspects of her father’s childhood spent at a concrete factory. She said he once commented that she had “concrete flowing in her veins.”

She then discussed her work from 2016, where she began experimentation with different material processes following the birth of her son and mentioned American painter and sculptor Sam Gilliam as an influence. 

Iglesias went on to describe her work in the Dominican Republic in 2017, where she worked with reclaimed materials - particularly family souvenirs and paperwork. She said she transformed them with a mixture of marble dust and water until they became almost unrecognizable.

“I was using this material, thinking that it was charged with this kind of familial information and history,” she said.

Iglesias also described the work she does with her sister, focusing on “Commiserates” - a project that began in 2012 when Lisa Iglesias was pregnant with her first child. 

“Commiserates,” which involved Iglesias’ sister Janelle posing beside her with round objects to mimic her pregnant stomach, continued even after the stillbirth of her second child Luna in 2018, she said.

This experience inspired Iglesias and her sister to create an online spreadsheet filled with resources regarding reproductive justice, including information on miscarriages, stillbirths, and abortion access. 

Throughout the talk, Iglesias stressed the influence of family on her work. While creating pieces for “Chivalry Timbers,” currently exhibited at the Mazmanian Gallery, she said she invited family members into the studio to participate in the process.

“Moving from painting to sculpture and thinking about that tactility and that kind of hand touch sensibility is what really guided the works upstairs, and I invited in my firstborn here to help make it work,” she said.

Iglesias also said her mother took part in the project.

“In the resulting works, you can see a sort of index of the body that this is referencing, the byproducts of the family members’ marks,” she said.

Discussing the inclusion of family and images of home in art, Iglesias mentioned artist Michelle Grabner as an influence. She praised Grabner’s “cheeky response” to a review that called her a “soccer mom,” as well as a rebuttal by artist and writer Amy Sillman which she said demonstrated community between artists.

“I thought how beautiful a community that is, to risk her own work - it’s a vulnerable thing, right?” she asked.

When asked later whether she would describe herself as a feminist artist, Iglesias said her feminism embraces multiplicity. “It’s a queer feminism. It’s a loving feminism,” she said.

“So then, I guess I’m a feminist everything - like a feminist eater, a feminist artist, a feminist frisbee player,” Iglesias added.

Iglesias went on to discuss the materials used in “Chivalry Timbers.” She said she had inherited paints from artist Arnold Mesches, who was one of her professors at the University of Florida.

“I had all these paints in my studio that I was too nervous to use because he was my professor, and I’d inherited these materials, and he has since passed, and I was so nervous to use them - and so I’ve moved hundreds of miles with them,” she said.

Iglesias added that she had left the paints for so long that they were rotting, some even growing mold.

“Deciding to use them actually kind of loosened me up because I saw that I couldn’t paint in any way that illustrated anything, because the paint itself was so sculptural and resisted any kind of so-called finesse that I tried to put to it,” she said.

Color, Iglesias explained, was also a focus of the exhibition. Thinking about abstractionists’ use of color, she discussed Palestinian artist Samia Halaby, whose show at Indiana University was canceled in December 2023 due to safety concerns.

Iglesias also referred to Scottish writer and artist David Batchelor’s book “Chromophobia,” and said she stopped using color during graduate school.

“By the time I graduated, it was all graphite on paper - I stripped all the color away. I was thinking about conceptualism,” she said.

Iglesias added, “I think that really at the time I had kind of inherited all of these biases against color, thinking that it couldn’t be conceptual or academic, and so I really wanted to invite that back.”

The use of green in some of the pieces, Iglesias explained, was a “very direct reference” to the protests of the Green Wave Movement. The movement, she said, is an abortion rights campaign whose use of the color on handkerchiefs and protest signs can be traced back over two decades to Argentina.

Iglesias said the work “Blue Hour” used color to represent the moment just after sunset - which, in the role of caregiver, they viewed daily as a period of transition from waking to sleeping.

“I was acutely aware of how those colors were changing because I was actively caring for a human and looking out the window,” she said.

To end the talk, Iglesias shared a list of resources - ways to help Palestinians in Gaza - and drew attention to the website Jewish Voices For Peace.

“There’s so many different ways that we can be helpful, and also direct what we’re feeling and thinking about,” she said.


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