By Cati Demme
Upon first glance, the women dressed in their colorful huipil blouses tucked into gathered skirts, grace the plaza like luminous butterflies or radiant flowers. To the untrained eye the seemingly simple huipil is merely a pleasing play of color and pattern, geometry and nature, tones and contrast, weaving and embroidery, either blouse or dress.
By Lena Bartula
Thu, Feb 11, 7pm
However, upon closer inspection the patterns, both woven and embroidered, take on a much more profound meaning; they become a record, a documentation, an homage to life. Through each thread runs a personal story, a history passed down from generation to generation. Thus the huipil became a vehicle for communication that allowed the indigenous women to secretly record their belief systems, agricultural knowledge, and religious ceremonies, while claiming their individual and communal identities.
The art and tradition of the huipil continues today as a symbol of resistance, solidarity, and humanity. Each thread, from the firm warp to the fine surface embellishment, represents the many layers of the truth of human existence, from the personal to the universal.
Lena Bartula has chosen this centuries-old tradition as both her vehicle and format to express the contradictions, the inequalities, and other social issues of our modern contemporary life. She courageously bares her soul and shares her own past, playing on both the technical process of the once ubiquitous “transparency” used for documentation and communication and the urgent call for political and governmental transparency around the world. She challenges us to recognize the duplicity and negligence of the global clothing industry, under the seductive guise of “designer labels” that adroitly mask the exploitation of both human and environmental resources.
But “as the brightest light often comes from the darkest places,” Bartula also portrays the ephemeral, joyful side of life, and she reminds us that life is short and we must recognize its many faces, and celebrate it as often as we can.
The Ignacio Ramírez Cultural Center El Nigromante (Bellas Artes) presents the exhibition “Hilos,” which opens on Thursday, February 11, at 7pm and runs through April 2016.