Silvia Y. Ledezma, an award-winning photographer who was born in the Mission, is ecstatic about a show that allows her to focus on the woman she discovered in what is generally an all-male dance group in Mexico.
Ledezma is one of 20 visual artists and 12 performers who contributed to the “Solo Mujeres” 36th Annual Art Exhibition at Mission Culture Center for Latino Arts. This year’s theme celebrates the role of women in preserving and developing culture and tradition and moving beyond struggle and oppression. The closing reception will be at 6 to 9 p.m., next Thursday, March 30. And this weekend, the center has a packed offering of events to get viewers in the door.
The show “honors women’s strength, resilience and their power to be the culture bearers. They’re the ones through which our culture and values are passed on,” said Martina Ayala, the director of the center. The annual exhibition, started in 1987 to provide space for women artists, has become increasingly influential and now attracts artists from beyond the Bay Area. This year, 16 of the artists come from nearby, and others sent work from New York, Texas and Pennsylvania.
Ledezma is showing four photographs taken in Chiapa de Corzo, a small town in southern Mexico. Every January, parachicos dancers, mainly men, parade down the streets to celebrate La Gran Fiesta, the Great Feast. During her visit, Ledezma noticed there were some women dancers in the group who hid their gender by wearing the mask of a man.
“I kind of want to highlight women that do things that are non-traditional,” said Ledezma, who talked to the women who had decided to dress up like young men, instead of wearing a traditional Chiapaneca dress for women.
“What I see is, basically, how she’s transforming herself through the mask,” said Ledezma, who followed one of the female dancers through the streets.
The other participants exhibiting on the second floor of the Mission Culture Center use photography, painting, and installation to reflect on a variety of issues, including how art history excluded women of color. Alejandra Rubio did this by placing two similar Renaissance-styled paintings together. A mirror in one painting was replaced with real reflective material where viewers can see their faces. It is meant to remind viewers of the underrepresentation of women of color in all classical artworks.
Three abstract paintings drawn by Ana Gachero, who is also a social worker, are about healing memories. Another painting depicts the only survivor of the 2017 Peru mudslides, Evangelina Chamorro. ”So, amidst the fear and desperation, Evangelina must have felt while trapped, she displayed strength and resilience and bravery during this situation,” said Ayala, referring to the artist’s statement.
The show presents work from different generations of Latina artists, including Daniela Oropeza, who graduated from high school this year. She has two works in the show, exploring her body image and spiritual connection to South America. Oropeza grew up in the Mission and attended the summer arts program at the Mission Culture Center. Besides her works, there are several paintings by Maria Esther Garcia, a 76-year-old artist, poet and community leader who wrote that she enjoys writing, creating and making art next to her son.
This coming Friday, a group of young women singers, rappers and performers, as well as women vendors and entrepreneurs, will gather in the gallery from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Viewers can enjoy the artwork, music and shop at the same time.
On Saturday, Gypsie Ayala will lead a jewelry and gemstone workshop on the importance of self-adornment and indigenous culture at 2 p.m. On Sunday at 11 a.m., there will be a women’s brunch, “Mujeres, Tacos, and Poesia” with an open mic featuring local women poets. Women vendors will also be around from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. during this weekend.
This show may be one of the last before the Center, now 46, has to move out of the building so it can be retrofitted. The date for that has been extended to July, 2024.
“This building is huge, and it’s going to be hard for us to find a place for the theater, a gallery, a print shop, and dance and music and art studios. So we don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’re going to take advantage of it while we’re here,” said Ayala.
If anyone has an empty storefront or a building, the Center would love to hear from you.
Photo taken by Lilly Angulo