The UNC Latina/o studies program held an undergraduate symposium Monday to discuss the exploration of art and its relation to history, politics and identity.
UNC students Abigail Gillespie and Livia Benitez gave presentations about their research and perspectives on Latinx art.
“For some artists, their art is a way to heal and understand what their complex identity is,” Gillespie said. “They’re expressing their lived experiences in a deeply personal way that does not require spoken words. They're telling a story, even if no one is around to listen.”
The symposiums are part of a series that relates history to current events happening in Latinx communities and around the world.
“We intentionally create unique symposiums, and the symposiums are really intended to help our campus and broader community expand their conceptions of what defines Latinx people, their experiences, values and cultural and intellectual productions,” Geovani Ramírez, a postdoctoral teaching assistant professor who moderated the symposium, said.
Gillespie began the symposium with a presentation on narrative art and healing. She focused on "Disease Thrower," a collection of sculptures created by Salvadoran-American artist Guadalupe Maravilla. The work was inspired by Maravilla's experiences with migration and cancer.
Gillespie said immigration can sometimes cause stress on one's physiological and mental health, citing Maravilla’s experiences with immigration as a running theme in his work.
“To understand the trauma associated with being an undocumented immigrant, you have to understand the trauma associated with before, during and after the migration process,” Gillespie said.
Benitez’s presentation focused on art as a catalyst for revolution against censorship from the Cuban government.
“We used to see art as a companion whenever there is a social movement, whenever there is a revolution, whenever there is a political change," Benitez said. "We tend to see artists use their art in all types of modifications, from music, paintings, sculpture, to reinforce that change. In this particular case, what we’re seeing in Cuba is art itself creating a revolution, aiming for change.”
Benitez said supporters of the revolution, which is also known as the San Isidro Movement, are creating signs, selling clothing and stamping money with the words "Free Cuba" in order to show support to Cuban artists.
“Countries outside of Cuba are helping and sharing and spreading what’s going on through arts, through performances, through music, through paintings,” Benitez said. "It’s just amazing."
Ramírez said the symposiums focus on building bridges across various institutions and geographical spaces.
“We’re reaching our UNC community and Chapel Hill community, but we’re also reaching other people beyond UNC and in our Triangle,” he said.
The LSP will hold its next symposium on Nov. 22. More information about the LSP and upcoming events can be found on the program's website.
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