This summer, the Lawrence Arts Center is thrilled to be partnering with curators Rachel Epp Buller and Maria Velasco to bring Making It Work to Lawrence; a show about being an artist and being a parent and exploring and navigating where they intersect. What does it mean to be an artist? What does it mean to be a parent? How can you incorporate one into the other? Six artists from around the country have answered those questions and have created work that incorporates their family life into their artistic practice.
Each artist has their own unique practice and way of interweaving their family life and artistic practice. Here, we are having a discussion with Making It Work artist, Pilar Agüero-Esparza, and her daughter, Olivia Esparza. Olivia was not only the subject matter within Pilar’s featured work but an active participant.
My works in this show, connect a ten-year timespan and exploration of parenthood and identity. I first cast my daughter’s feet in hundreds of packs of the Crayola Multicultural Crayon sets of 8 skin tone colors when Olivia was ten years old. I was compelled to do this as an artistic gesture but also as a parent. The trajectory of this act set me on the path of exploring colorism and racial identity through my practice as well as engaging in conversation with my daughter about these issues.
When creating the first set of castings, Olivia was a passive but curious participant. By the time of the second casting, she was starting her senior year in high school and her participation this time was a collaborative exchange. It was also at this time that Olivia was deeply involved in her school’s dance program and I thought it would be fitting for us to explore her involvement with this art form. Through the process, we discussed the importance of certain dance positions and determined the poses we wanted to recreate. In between our making sessions, we had conversations about colorism and race and for these castings, we also mixed the crayon colors to create new ones based on her ideas of skin tone.
Originally from Boyle Heights in East Los Angeles, Pilar Agüero-Esparza was exposed to the potential and richness of materials and the love of the hand-made working in her parents’ shoe shop. She received a BA in Art from the University of California Santa Cruz, and MFA from San Jose State University. Agüero-Esparza has been an active artist, arts educator and arts administrator in the Bay Area exhibiting her work in numerous institutions including the San Jose Museum of Art, Triton Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, The Santa Cruz Museum, MACLA, Palo Alto Arts Center, Galeria de la Raza, and the De Young Museum. In 2017, her work was featured in the exhibition The U.S.-Mexico Border: Place, Imagination, and Possibility at the Craft Contemporary Museum, Los Angeles as part of the Getty Foundation Southern California initiative Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, an ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art. In 2019, the U.S.-Mexico Border exhibition traveled to Lille, France as part of the Eldorado Lille3000 arts festival. Sponsored by festival organizers, Agüero-Esparza traveled to France and worked with community members teaching huarache-making workshops at the Maison Folie Wazemmes.