Adriana Gallego

Personal History

Growing up in the small border towns of Nogales (Arizona-Sonora) acquainted me with both the brutal nature of survival and institutional oppression. I learned that "la linea" (the borderline) is not a passive or static world, but rather one that lives in permanent tension and fragmentation. We are quick to classify the people who are from the border and those who cross the border as mojados, aliens, the undocumented, spicks, wetbacks, etc., before we remember that they, too, are human. It is easier to justify beating an alien, raping an undocumented, or killing a wetback. Reflecting on these observations and experiences has made me question what exactly constitutes the Border Phenomenon.

Development of Work

During the mid-nineties, I painted about la frontera (the border). Through use of narrative elements I translate violations of human rights as they would manifest themselves psychologically. The subjects' fragmentation becomes a metaphor for systemic memory as it is stored and expressed in the body.

My work is motivated by contemporary interpretations of the borderlands, extensive documentation and research on human rights issues, psychological theories on the Systemic Memory Hypothesis, as well as personal accounts and oral history. I look at innovations and experimentations from throughout art history as guides for structuring my conceptual reality of the corporeal manifestation of psychological violence and degradation. The sensibilities of Leon Golub and Kathe Kollowitz in portraying how the body and the soul are mocked and displayed have been very influential. Further, traveling and associating with diverse communities of artists and arts organization in New York City, Guanajuato, Mexico, and California has also been a significant source for inspiration, intellectual dialogue, and creative development. Together, these investigations and experiences allow for a comprehensive approach to the production of ideas and images interpreting the border reality.

Transparency Descriptions

Liberación: Contradictoria, 1998
18" x 24" Oil on canvas

The painting Liberación: Contradictoria is part of the series Fragmentos de Liberación. Conceptually, it illustrates a person's ill-fated encounter at the U.S./Mexico border. More specifically, it addresses the person's search for liberation interrupted by nature. In this case, nature presents itself as a contradiction to its healing attributes. The hands are tethered within an infected aloe vera plant; a plant otherwise known for it's medicinal qualities. Here, nature is metaphorically impeding this person's intentions. The whole of this psychological experience in manifested in the hands as a systemic memory. The heavily applied gesso texturizes the surface, while sanding reveals the grittiness and tension co-existing around the border's subject: the subjected hands.

Con piedras en los pies, cruzo, 1998
40" x 60" oil on canvas

Con piedras en los pies, cruzo is a painting exemplifying the experience of a young girl crossing the US/Mexico border with rocks tied to her feet. A psychologically charged snapshot visually characterizes the brutal nature of such an event. The fragmented figure sits in a chair with an agave plant emerging from between her thighs. A wire-vine of green thorns stemming from the fence in the background binds the legs to the chair. The restrained figure is accompanied by a light source suggestive of a spotlight or the sun, either of which implies the presence of a witness. The painting is treated with a generous application of oil paint juxtaposed with an abrasive, reductive scarring on the surface.