Artist: Sheila Garrett Rodriguez
Exhibition: Were We Even Here
Gallery: Max L. Gatov Gallery East
Media: Mixed media, embroidery floss, yarn, cochineal, oil on canvas
Sheila Garrett Rodriguez is graduate student at California State University, Long Beach planning to get her Master of Fine Arts in Fiber. She is a mother of 3 girls, one of whom is already a university student studying in Hawaii. Rodriguez is of Mexican heritage, as well as having Polish ancestry. Although she does not speak the Spanish language fluently, she is aware of her culture as she is very indulged in it. This can be seen in her exhibition, “Were We Even Here.” In the near future, Rodriguez has shows lined up, planned collaborations and will try to get some internships going. As seen in some of her works, she enjoys working with embroidery, paints, weaving and digital photography.
For this exhibition, Sheila Rodriguez used various medias, along with found objects. At the start of the gallery, the first thing I encountered was a chair with hand-dyed yarn laced around it. This chair actually belonged to Rodriguez’s grandmother. Next to it was a window screen embroidered with floss and a sign that read “house for sale.” Following that piece was a bedframe, which also belonged to her grandmother, with cochineal around it, hand-dyed yarn and embroidery floss. The next thing that caught my attention was a a huge oil painting depicting a woman’s bare back, taking hold of barbed wires and a house on her head. This piece was titled “No Trespassing: Borders and Bodies.” Embroidery floss and yarn was also used in this piece to create colorful flowers and designs. This painting represents the first she bought with her husband. Among other pieces, Rodriguez also had a video documentation of her using a stone tool, called a “molcajete,” which is commonly used in Mexican households to crush and grind spices. She titled this piece as “When I’m Gone.”
As Sheila Garrett Rodriguez explains, this exhibition was a way for her to explore her own personal identity. Rodriguez admits to have moved houses more than 30 times. According to her, the longest she ever spent in one house was 5 to 6 years at most. Her summers during her high school years were spent in Samoa and she has lived in Arkansas before. For her, all the houses or apartments she has lived in before have taken her identity, as she grew up. She explains that people are often very judgmental, even making assumptions of someone based upon the appearance of their home. All the homes she has lived in before, she cherishes, and she will continue to cherish them, as they are a part of her own identity.
Talking with Sheila Garrett Rodriguez reminded me of when I was younger and due to my parent’s job I would often have to move schools, or even cities––which meant I’d have a new place to call home. I lasted a year in Camarillo, another year in Long Beach, then another year in North Hollywood before finally settling down in Long Beach again. I have not moved states but I have moved from house to apartments. I don’t mind moving, unless it means moving to another state. I love living in California. Every place I have gotten to call home in this state gave me precious memories and I think they make me who I am today. The embroidery she used in her artwork also reminds me of the embroidery my grandmothers use when making pillow cases, blankets and clothes for my younger siblings, cousins and I. I am glad we share the same heritage and that I got to connect with her through this exhibition.