While you might not yet be able to cross international lines due to pandemic restrictions, let artist/activist Tanya Aguiñiga transport you to a different mind space. The Los Angeles-based textile artist explores immigration politics, transnational identity and community activism in a solo exhibition at Pasadena’s Armory Center for the Arts.
Aguiñiga draws on deep personal experience for her Armory show, Borderlands Within/La Frontera Adentro, much of it accessible online during the art center’s temporary closure. The San Diego-born artist grew up on both sides of the border with Mexico, crossing daily between San Diego and Tijuana for 14 years.
“Having lived in two different countries, I don’t feel like I really belong to either. I’m tethered between two different worlds,” she says.
Aguiñiga uses weaving traditions, fiber, ceramics and hand-blown glass in her works in experimental ways to provoke dialogues on identity, culture and gender. Her goal? To foster community.
Borderlands Within will mark the L.A. debut of some of her important works, including selections from the binational border-epic AMBOS. Ambos means “both” in Spanish but the exhibition lends it another meaning: it’s an acronym for “art made between opposite sides.” For the Armory, this “site-responsive commission” uses the building’s architecture as “a large-scale, performance-activated loom.”
Aguiñiga created AMBOS as a platform for artists on both sides of the border to express and illuminate what life is really like there. What started as a month-long “activation” at the San Ysidro border crossing in 2016 expanded into an ongoing project recording life along the entire length of the U.S.-Mexico border. AMBOS combines documentation and artistic collaboration with community activism and exploration of identities in the borderland zones.
Borderlands Within marks the public debut of her most recent AMBOS-related art object: Metabolizing the Border. It’s a full-body suit of hand-blown glass for a figure wearing transparent huaraches (Mexican open-toed sandals) and a clear bag holding fragments of the U.S.-Mexico border wall. The Armory displays the entire glass ensemble along with documentation of Aguiñiga performing in the suit at the border. Aguiñiga created the piece while in residence at the Pilchuck Glass School near Seattle.
Borderlands Within/La Frontera Adentro runs through Dec. 13.