Taking A Look at Making It Work

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.

Additionally, we are providing programming through The Black Lunch Table, a movement and project co-created by one of the Making It Work artists, Jina Valentine and her creative partner Heather Hart. The BLT’s primary aim is the production of digital, web based information, where people who identify as cultural producers hold discussions touching on a variety of critical issues. BLT organizes the rewriting of contemporary cultural history by engaging in conversations around and among the people living it.

Each artist has their own unique practice and way of interweaving their family life and artistic practice.

Pilar Agüero-Esparza is originally from Boyle Heights in East Los Angeles, 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.

Her inquiry begins with the materials and processes specific to growing up in a shoemaking family. In the craft tradition of huarache–making (Mexican indigenous sandals), repetitive gestures such as the weaving of leather, the hammering of nails, and the painting of finishing details makes up Agüero-Esparza’s current practice. The physical presence and signifying potential of these materials and gestures inspire Pilar to analyze how objects are made, who makes them, and the physical or social conditions involved in their making. Through her works, she invokes the viewer to consider the inequities of race, gender, and class by presenting them with specific cultural and aesthetic experiences. In representing ideas of othering and conditions of otherness, she calls attention to these cultural and aesthetic experiences to validate them and acknowledge their power.

By employing strategies of early Modernism and rendering them with lowly craft materials, a merger is formed that creates tension and contradiction and preoccupies Agüero-Esparza in a dialogue about art versus craft. She employs the language of abstraction and explores the tropes of Color Theory, substituting a skin-tone palette for prismatic colors to draw attention to the complexities of skin color. While her chosen color palette is contrived as “neutral” Agüero-Esparza want to convey hierarchical power dynamics represented in the chromatic gamut of beige, brown, and black. She wants the viewer to see her works as “racialized abstractions” and consider social dynamics and colorism within our culture.

Pilar Agüero-Esparza: Back Pointe, Casted Crayon

Alberto Aguilar is a Chicago based artist that was born there as well. Aguilar’s creative practice often incorporates whatever materials are at hand as well as exchanges with those around him or people that encounter his artwork. His work bridges media from painting and sculpture to video, installation, performance, and sound and has been exhibited at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, the Queens Museum, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago. He holds a BFA and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and currently teaches at Harold Washington College one of the City Colleges of Chicago.

“Aguilar wasn’t always the sort of artist who made conceptual or performative work. He began his career as a traditional painter, inspired by powerhouses like Picasso and Cézanne. But as his life began to include more responsibilities—as a husband, a college professor, and father to four children—he realized that he wanted a simplified creative practice. The dissolution of his studio came around the time he started working full time as a studio art professor at Harold Washington College. He resigned from that job in 2018: after 12 years, he was ready for new challenges.”

Alberto Aguilar: 08.14.2020, Monumental Acts, Enamel on paper

Christa Donner is an artist, writer, and organizer who investigates the human/animal body and its metaphors. Her practice combines material exploration and social exchange to propose speculative models that move between the emotional architecture of our own bodies and the layered histories of the world we inhabit.

Donner’s work is exhibited widely, including projects for Gallery 400 (Chicago, USA), the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Berlin, Germany), BankArt NYK (Yokohama, Japan); Chiaki Kamikawa Contemporary Art (Paphos, Cyprus); the Museum Bellerive (Zurich, Switzerland), the Centro Columbo Americano (Medellin, Colombia), and throughout the United States. In 2012, when her daughter was one year old, Donner initiated Cultural ReProducers, an evolving creative platform for and about cultural workers who are also working it out as parents. Cultural ReProducers continues to foster visibility and support through events, publications, skill sharing, and an extensive online resource for artists and institutions.

Donner’s practice extends to her role as a curator and educator.  She currently teaches courses in creative research, drawing, and small-press publishing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Christ Donner: Dear Human: Accompanying Sound Track

Lise Haller Baggesen’s hybrid practice includes writing, painting, installation, performative, sartorial, and textile-based work. Baggesen is an alumna of Billedskolen, Copenhagen (1989-91), AKI in Enchede (BFA PTDW 1992-95), the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam (1996/97), SAIC (MAVCS 2011-13), the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity (2017). She is the recipient of Prins Bernhard’s Culture Prize (2000), the Royal Dutch Prize for Modern Painting (2002), and a 2015 nominee for The Joan Mitchell Foundation’s Emerging Artist Grant. She exhibits internationally, including 6018 Norththe Poetry FoundationMCA, DPAM, and AIC, Chicago (IL)The Suburban, Milwaukee (WI); Gemeentemuseum Den Haag (NL); Overgaden (DK); Württembergischem Kunstverein (D); MoMu Antwerp(B); Théatre de la Ville de ParisLe Confort Moderne, Poitiers, and Villa Arson, Nice (F).

​Her book and multi-media project Mothernism (2013) toured extensively, staking out the “Mother-shaped Hole in Contemporary Art Discourse” at (amongst others) The Poor Farm (WI), The Contemporary Austin (TX), VOX Populi (PA), EFA and A.I.R. Gallery (NY). It was reviewed in Art21, KQED, and Hyperallergic and spawned the international symposia The Mothernists I+II in Rotterdam (2015) and Copenhagen (2017).

Interpersonal relationships, intergenerational and intersectional eco- and cyber- feminism, reproductive justice, therapeutic aesthetics, color field painting, sci-fi tie-dye, hippie modernism, bio-punk, grunge, glam, and disco, are some of the vernaculars that inform Haller Baggesen’s body of work. Since graduating in 2013 from SAIC’s department of Visual and Critical Studies, this organic body has manifested itself in a hybrid  and polydisciplinamorous practice, including writing, audio-visual installations, textile-, and sartorial works.

Mother is a noun and a verb; Haller Baggesen regards her practice as a sourdough, a gestation of material, out of which individual works, texts, and shows are wrought, while the mother remains, active.

Lise Haller Baggesen: Motherism: Image courtesy The Contemporary Austin. Photograph by Brian Fitzsimmons

Cara Romero is a contemporary fine art photographer. An enrolled citizen of the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe, Romero was raised between contrasting settings: the rural Chemehuevi reservation in Mojave Desert, CA and the urban sprawl of Houston, TX. Romero’s identity informs her photography, a blend of fine art and editorial photography, shaped by years of study and a visceral approach to representing Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultural memory, collective history, and lived experiences from a Native American female perspective.

As an undergraduate at the University of Houston, Romero pursued a degree in cultural anthropology. Disillusioned, however, by academic and media portrayals of Native Americans as bygone, Romero realized that making photographs could do more than anthropology did in words, a realization that led to a shift in medium. Since 1998, Romero’s expansive oeuvre has been informed by formal training in film, digital, fine art and commercial photography. By staging theatrical compositions infused with dramatic color, Romero takes on the role of storyteller, using contemporary photography techniques to depict the modernity of Native peoples, illuminating Indigenous worldviews and aspects supernaturalism in everyday life.

Maintaining a studio in Santa Fe, NM, Romero regularly participates in Native American art fairs and panel discussions, and was featured in PBS’ Craft in America (2019). Her award-winning work is included in many public and private collections internationally. Married with three children, she travels between Santa Fe and the Chemehuevi Valley Indian Reservation, where she maintains close ties to her tribal community and ancestral homelands.

Cara Romero: TV Indians (Color)

Jina Valentine was born in Pennsylvania and is currently based in Chicago, IL. Her interdisciplinary practice is informed by the intuitive strategies of American folk artists and traditional craft techniques, and interweaves histories latent within found texts, objects, narratives, and spaces. She has exhibited at venues including The Drawing Center, The Studio Museum in Harlem, the CUE Foundation, the Elizabeth Foundation, the DiRosa Preserve, Southern Exposure, Marlborough Gallery. She has participated in residencies at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Women’s Studio Workshop, Sculpture Space, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, the Santa Fe Art Institute, the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans, and Banff Centre in Alberta.  Her independent practice has received recognition and support from the North Carolina Arts Council Grant, the UNC Institute for Arts and Humanities, Art Matters, and the Joan Mitchell Foundation. Jina received her BFA from Carnegie Mellon University and her MFA from Stanford University.

Images from the Black Lunch Table project (clockwise from top left): screen capture from the Black Lunch Table archive; question cards from The People’s Table session at the 8th Floor at Rubin Foundation, NY 2017; Artists’ Roundtable session at BAR, Dorchester Projects, Chicago, 2014; The People’s Table session at Project Row Houses, Houston, 2016.

Making It work will open on May 27, 2022 and run through July 30, 2022. We hope to see you here and engage you in the wide variety of work that will be found inside and outside the Lawrence Arts Center. Keep your eyes peeled for announcements regarding programming, events, virtual artist talks, and more!