Margarita Cabrera is known for her installation art and community outreach work. She was recently in Austin working on a project, From Hand to Hand. The project was commissioned by the city through Make the Peace with the community, so Cabrera decided to incorporate local immigrants into the creation process. “You have to consider who’s making the art, our audience, and the overall process with the art” stated Cabrera. The project was made to incorporate the immigrant’s culture into the western world. She is now back in her quaint El Paso studio next to open fields and working on a new project. Latinitas has the scoop on Cabrera’s artwork and life as an artist.
Your art deals with cross cultural themes to which many Latinos can relate, what is the message you want to send?
I’ve always felt a sense of subordination or alienation, I’ve been on this inherent journey to try to understand why we (Latinos) aren’t accepted. I would Focus on what was around me. Being an immigrant myself, my art relates to immigration, a lot of my objects are commodities in the United States culture and become that injustice.
It is really important that the immigrant community is included in the United States, so they are part of a cultural community. I began with my individual work, then I embodied the image I wanted to promote by working together with other immigrants. It is important for other cultures to be identified and respected.
You don’t use very many conventional materials, what are they and why are they chosen?
My own productions are used with materials that will transmit other messages. I made a coffee maker out of vinyl, which is used to cover up surfaces; it’s a replacement for something better. Vinyl also creates a very good structure that is malleable. The materials chosen in my collaborative works are connected to traditional craft makers. People aren’t paying the worth of the crafts and don’t value the work. Crafting is the heart of any country, when that is at risk the culture is at risk.Traditions are being lost, we need to bring artisans together to somehow make an economy.
It is a small retrospective of work pieces that deal with the maquiladoras community, femicide, mass production, and assimilated production I created about ten years ago. I made replicas of domestic appliances as cultural anthropomorphic figures. Through their physical structures you can understand who they were; why they were undone. They are visual metaphors to talk about the physical messages of the maquiladoras and what they went through. Like my Cotton Circles (in Fresno), I always try to work with the immigrant communities. The history of cotton evolved over the history of the US and parallels slavery. Today, there’s another kind of Slavery with the immigrant community that can be weaved into personal stories.
You’re originally from Monterrey but moved to the US at an early age. How was your transition and what advice can you give girls who are currently trying to get used to finding a place within the two cultures?
I first moved to Salt Lake City and was living separately from white friends. I was a catholic Mexican so I couldn’t participate with any Mormon after school curriculum. We eventually left because my mother was uncomfortable with all of the racism.
My advice is to have faith. You will go through a growing process: it’s not about sides, it’s about who you are. Find those people who you want to be and get close to them.Try not to see that space in between [cultures] as a weakness or how it separates you from the United States. Transitional space is where a lot of transformations can happen. Then you can become who you want to be while trying to define yourself. Ask questions if you don’t understand, ask for help, ask why. If you don’t, you start subordinating yourself. You have to have this inner push for who you want to be, find that inner strength to help you pursue your dreams. The moment you feel any kind of social injustice, speak out about it, never let it pass. Be proud of who you are, have initiative in everything you do. Be proud of being a woman.
How did you first get into art and what has been your journey?
My first creative moments were in Montessori school; everything you learn about the world is through touch. I realized I needed to work with my hands to communicate. At first it was not something I needed support for, but my family did want me to take a different route. I started early in high school and by the time I was in University, I decided this (art) was something that defined itself, and then it defined me.
I just went with it, I believed in myself. I went to Baltimore then New York. I struggled to be a part of the art community as a student. A struggle in the sense that I was the only Latina in the classroom.
What advice can you give for young Latinas who are aspiring to become artists?
Try to identify who you are as a person in your community. With trial, define yourself and bring it to the community art. Personalize your work and don’t be afraid to do it. Everything you’re afraid to show is exactly what you should make.
Do your research: find out what it is you want to study (sculpting, painting, photography, etc), find out whose work you like and then follow them. Go to the places where the people you admire are or will be teaching. Do a lot of internships and go to all the art shows.