Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 24, 2014

Border relations through an artists's eye

Jewelry exhibit at IU Kokomo explores relationship between U.S. and Mexico.

By Lindsey Ziliak
Kokomo Tribune

---- — Nicolas Estrada created a unique rosary adorned with a pendant of Satan and tiny, silver guns between the rosary beads.

Jesus was nailed to guns instead of a cross.

The Colombian man left a card next to it with a prayer that read, “If they have eyes, may they not see me. If they have hands, may they not grab me. If they have feet, may they not reach me. Don’t allow them to surprise me from behind. Don’t let my death be violent. Don’t let my blood run.”

The piece is part of Indiana University Kokomo’s latest art exhibit called LaFrontera, a contemporary jewelry show.

Artists from across the world explore the complicated relationship between the United States and Mexico, especially along the border of the two countries.

The show, which is part of a national tour, opened with a reception Wednesday night in the in the university’s art gallery in Upper Alumni Hall. It is free and open to the public.

Cat Bolinger, interim gallery director, said it is interesting to see the perspectives of artists from around the world on the issues surrounding the border.

"It's not just our issue, between the U.S. and Mexico, but something the whole world is thinking about," she said. "It's interesting to see how jewelry can express those thoughts."

Edward McCartney created three brooches designed to look like silver guns. He called it “If Bullets were Jewels.” They were made with reclaimed silver and reclaimed yellow, red and blue gemstones.

McCartney has lived in Texas for more than 30 years. His family moved there from London, England in 1977 when he was 13 years old.

“I have witnessed the change in Texas/Mexico border relations over the years,” he wrote in the description of his jewelry pieces. “With ‘If Bullets were Jewels,’ I was concerned with memorializing lives and events destroyed by and marked with violence through traditional Victorian mourning jewelry.”

Thea Clark grew up in San Francisco. She made her necklace out of steel, cotton bandanas, epoxy resin, tinted plastic, a 50-centavos coin and a one-cent coin.

“I used cotton bandanas because they were so visible in the Chicano culture of the neighborhood I grew up in San Francisco,” she wrote. “…The fiber is torn. This personifies the condition many immigrants experience separated from families. It also represents the fabric of our societies as we face the ramifications of border policies.”

Bolinger said about 50 people wandered through the gallery on opening night. Many asked questions and were surprised by how much they learned from the exhibit, she said.

More than 100 pieces, made of both traditional materials and found objects, are included in the show, curated by San Francisco art gallery Velvet Da Vinci.

As a student in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program, Bolinger was amazed by the types of materials the artists used, including bottle caps, sticks and pieces of wood.

"It shows you can take any material and make it into something beautiful," Bolinger said. "It reminds me that to be an artist, you don't have to buy expensive materials, you can use things that you find, and recycle them into something special."

Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune Life & Style editor, can be reached at 765-454-8585, at lindsey.ziliak@kokomotribune.com or via Twitter @LindseyZiliak.

WANT TO GO? WHAT: The LaFrontera art exhibit WHEN: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays through March 1. WHERE: Indiana University Kokomo art gallery COST: Admission and parking are free