By: Razan Samara
Inspired by Mexican-American heritage, Spanglish culture and the beauty of domestic space, ¡Pa’delante Mestizaje! makes its Canadian debut at Centre 3 Print and Media Arts.
Texas-based artist Wendi Ruth grew up in a world of blended cultures. Her environment was hybridized and communication was bilingual.
A recent graduate from Wichita State University’s School of Art, Ruth spent four months creating ¡Pa’delante Mestizaje!, Spanish for ‘Onward Mixed Race’.
Housed in Centre 3’s main gallery, the exhibition embodies nostalgia for one’s home, culture and family.
The theme of the show was partially inspired by Ruth’s grandmother’s constant reminders to never forget where she came from.
“I was a bit hesitant about talking about Hispanic art because once you are labeled that, then that’s all that you are,” said Ruth.
“I was really hesitant about that, [but] after thinking about what my grandmother told me, it didn’t matter… this is who I am and I don’t need to hide away from that. If people want to label me that, then okay, but that doesn’t limit me as an artist.”
The Centre 3 exhibit consists of two installments, Nuestra Yarda, Nuestra Tierra (Our Yard, Our Land) and Wall de Memorias (Wall of Memories).
Nuestra Yarda, Nuestra Tierra is where everything started. Growing up in a bilingual household, Ruth would refer to her yard as ‘yarda’ believing that it was a Spanish word.
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It wasn’t until she visited family in Mexico that she learned the commonly used word is not really Spanish, but rather Spanglish. Embracing her unique Spanglish culture, Ruth’s first piece is centered around the word ‘yarda’.
The piece is an installment displaying cacti, fruit, fauna and a ‘mowersito’ in a triangular yard, with the background adorned with tiny Aztec-inspired motifs.
Wall de Memorias was inspired by Ruth’s grandmother’s sacred wall that was composed of pictures of her children and grandchildren, as well as their accomplishments.
The piece is composed of fragments of Ruth’s own memories, as well as her family’s.
The piece depicts drawings of objects that were important to her and others could recognize and relate to, such as her grandmother’s rosebush, an Etch-a-Sketch and even her entire kitchen in a scene called “Lunch is Ready”. This last scene was especially important to Ruth’s mother.
“[During my reception in Wichita] my friend came up to me and said ‘[Ruth], turn around, your mom is crying’ and I was like, ‘What? Why is she crying?’ It was just a huge response, and I hadn’t spoken to her about any of our memories… I wanted my work to touch people, I wanted it to speak to people but I didn’t expect anyone to cry and I didn’t expect it touch [my mom] so emotionally,” said Ruth.
Ruth hopes that by sharing her own cultural experience, she can touch others who identify themselves in that intersection between Spanish and English speaking cultures.
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“A lot of children are growing up in the Spanglish culture and are trying to find who they are. [The culture] is gaining momentum and popularity but it’s also making a root in history now. For me, it is about recognizing that [history and] our own experiences and sharing that with everybody else,” she explained.
Ruth hopes to continue sharing her narrative, but she also wants to continue to explore the idea of what happens when artwork is brought into a home, not just in a frame hanging on a wall, but rather in harmony with the personal identity of the space and individuals who live within it.
Her art portrays the memories, culture and people associated with domestic spaces, and so Ruth naturally envisions her art being displayed in that space, rather than just in a gallery.
¡Pa’delante Mestizaje! will be on display until Feb. 18 at 173 James Street North.