‘The Wall Brand,’ ‘Kalashnikov Brand,’ ‘Nasty Woman Brand’ and ‘Birther Nation Brand’ from the “Orange Crate” Label Series by Ben Sakoguchi. (Christina Berberian | The Poly Post)

Speaking through art in ‘Somewhere in Between’

“Somewhere in Between” discusses hot-topic political issues through the creative medium of art.

‘Guatemalan-American Flag’ from the “I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me” series by Nery Gabriel Lemus. (Christina Berberian | The Poly Post)

The exhibition, hosted in the Kellogg Gallery on campus, is comprised of work by 24 Los Angeles-based artists, all from different ethnicities and cultures.

The curators decided to intentionally open the gallery on Nov. 6, Election Day.

“Part of our objective of opening our gallery on Election Day, is because today we’re dealing with issues on immigration, diaspora and border separation,” said director and curator, Michele Cairella Fillmore.

“The art here calls on the themes of loss, legacy and longing. All of the featured artists come from backgrounds of first-generation and second-generation immigrants who are trying to assimilate,” Cairella Fillmore said.

The majority of the pieces come from a place of political social motivation, with back stories written on the text panels of why the piece is important to the artist.

One piece is a colorful graphic-style depiction of notable women with the words “Nasty Woman” written across the frame by Ben Sakoguchi.

‘The Wall Brand,’ ‘Kalashnikov Brand,’ ‘Nasty Woman Brand’ and ‘Birther Nation Brand’ from the “Orange Crate” Label Series by Ben Sakoguchi. (Christina Berberian | The Poly Post)

“Their art gives showcase to the idea of ‘a third place,’” Cairella Fillmore said. “They are forced out of one, and then not welcome in the other. They are between two cultures. What you end up with are a mutation or hybridization.”

The white walls of the gallery are full of many depictions of this.

A memorable piece is the “Don’t Dream Act” by Guillermo Bert.

A paper shredder is embossed with the United States Seal on the base. The machine is shredding applications of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program.

Along the side of the shredder, it says ‘Don’t dream: Act.’

“It’s a call to be more participative and make these changes happen,” says artist Guillermo Bert. “And that’s what people are doing today and I’m very proud of them.”

Bert is referring to the activists trying to stop the repeal of DACA.

This piece, which discusses DACA, is about how it feels like a loss of identity for immigrants.

“These are massive flocks of people affected,” Bert said.

“You are able to notice that this will be considered a historical event in the future. For DACA, the consequences of these policies are that these people have been here all their lives. Since they’ve been here since children, they can’t go anywhere else. So, they’re in limbo.”

The beautiful pieces, including wall instillations of fishnets, handmade boxes and ceramics, all were inspired by the need to make one’s voice heard.

“Este es mi pais/This is my country” by Camilo Ontiveros is of a Hispanic teenager in a Navy recruitment advertisement.

This billboard replica was made to show the irony of trying to recruit immigrants to fight for America, while also trying to keep immigrants out.

Cairella Fillmore and Bia Gayotto curated this exhibition together.

Cairella Fillmore curated an exhibit of Gayotto’s work in 2016 in the Huntley Gallery in the CPP library. “Somewhere in between” has been in the works since then.

“We connected on that precious show with her work. That gallery was the jumping off point for this one and it informs the rest of the art here,” Cairella Fillmore said.

CPP was the perfect venue for an exhibit such as this, according to the curators.

“We chose artists from LA because it is such a diverse place in the country,” Cairella Fillmore said. “That’s also why we chose this campus. It’s filed with diverse people from different cultures.”

One piece called “Growing up Brown” is a 4-foot crayon sculpture by Maryrose Cobarrubias Mendoza. The crayon’s label says “American” as the shade name.

“It’s an extension of a piece I did 10 years ago, which was five brown crayons of actual size,” artist Mendoza said. “Different words were on the labels, referencing things that are brown including Filipino. The other words were positive and negative connotations of brown, including sh**, dirt and chocolate. It was a difficult piece to make at that time. Those associations of those things can be surprising and even confrontational.”

“When I think about the current climate, I thought I should bring the concept back,” Mendoza said. “The first piece was more personal. This one is personal too, but is considering how the color is being associated outside of myself. The word ‘American’ is identifying what being American means to myself and others.”

Cairella Fillmore feels that it’s an obligation to take a stance in what she thinks is right.

“Prejudice occurs every day and I feel like I have to have a voice in it these days,” Cairella Fillmore said. “I have a problem with the way things are going on. I need to do what I can I do to make a difference. and hopefully with this gallery we can try to understand each other better.”

“Somewhere in Between” is on view at the Kellogg University Art Gallery until March 17, 2019.

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