Each day, from sunrise to sunset, from April 5 to 12, ArtCenter College of Design student Jackie Amézquita was walking. For eight days, the young artist could be found treading in silence, proceeding along the highlighted route that would take her from the Mexican border to a gallery in L.A.’s Chinatown, where people were waiting for her at her own opening reception. The project, which Amézquita titled Huellas Que Germinan (Footprints That Sprout), was timed to the minute such that its composition coincided with the evening reception for the group exhibition "Decentralized," featuring this work by Amézquita along with those of 15 of her fellow students, with an overall theme of interpreting varieties of displacement experiences.
The Huellas Que Germinan performance was Amézquita’s project for the ArtCenter course Socially Engaged Art, a collaboration with local nonprofit Art Division, which supports underserved young people who intend to study art. The course is organized by ArtCenter’s Designmatters department, an initiative approaching design as a vehicle for international social change. Olga Koumoundouros, the assistant professor who teaches the course, encourages students to “be good citizens, think about the world around them, and have a sense of responsibility while making an impact.”
It was kind of the perfect prompt for a Latina artist whose work already investigates both physical and more esoteric issues of identity, social and economic systems and geopolitics. Her performative journey not only enacted a Marina Abramovic–level exercise in physical endurance and heightened ritual but its storyline specifically evoked the arduous trek undertaken by many immigrants, as well as the beacons of support and stretches of dangers that face them, and the longed-for emotional satisfaction of a warm welcome at journey’s end.
For personal safety reasons, she didn’t post real-time updates of her progress on foot; but at the start and/or the end of each day, she posted updates on her social media channels regarding her progress, her experiences, her state of mind, and sometimes the stories and experiences of the friends and colleagues who showed up to support her as she made her way north. From Instagram: Recap Day One finished 25.8 miles walk. How do I feel? Like, I’ve already walked from TJ to LA! Did I reach my location, yes! #huellasquegerminan #footprintsthatsprout
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Born in 1985 in Guatemala, Amézquita moved to the United States in 2003, and will graduate from ArtCenter with honors this month. And while this piece was most overtly an act of performance art, she has a robust maker’s practice as well — with sculptural pieces and installations made of reclaimed materials, especially from the textile and garment industries, as well as investigations into alternative printmaking techniques. That said, she often constructs her objects using deliberately repetitive process like knotting, weaving and crochet to both elevate common or remnant materials and invoke the dynamic of labor in the industries most likely to employ the immigrant women with whom she identifies. She incorporated aspects of weaving and textile craft into the walking work, for example wearing a crocheted body suit during the trip.
You can see more of Amézquita’s work at ArtCenter’s Graduate Show on Thursday, April 19, from 6-10 p.m., where she will present a suite of 85 salt prints rendering the negative spaces in the border fence separating Tecate and the United States. The graduation show takes place at ArtCenter's two Pasadena campuses, Hillside and the South Campus, the latter of which has three exhibition spaces. No word on whether Amézquita will be walking between them — but if you’re bold enough to park and walk, it could be the perfect chance for you to get a taste of what she went through.
ArtCenter: Hillside Campus, 1700 Lida St., Pasadena; South Campus, 870 & 950 S. Raymond Ave., 1111 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena; (626) 396-2200.