Artist: Sheila Garrett Rodriguez
Exhibition: Were We Even Here
Media: Drawing and Painting, Embroidery
Gallery: CSULB School of Arts, Max L. Gatov Gallery East
About the Artist:
Shelia Garrett Rodriquez is an LA-based artist currently pursuing her Masters of Fine Arts in Fiber Arts at California State University, Long Beach. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drawing and Painting, but fell in love with embroidery and decided she would go into the Fiber’s Program. Ms. Rodriguez mentioned that in her lifetime she had moved over 30 times from one home to another and during her moves, she made distinct connections and memories in some homes which inspired her to create her installation.
Sheila Garrett Rodriguez’s artwork mostly consists of oil on canvas and embroidery. The largest and most beautiful piece in my opinion, was one titled, “No Trespassing, Borders and Bodies,” and it consisted of oil on canvas, embroidery floss and yarn. Her piece is a self-portrait of herself facing away from the viewer with her arms out and without any clothes. Her back and arms are embroidered beautifully with brightly colored flowers and her head is inside a big, yellow house with three windows and a garage. There is barbed wire coming from each side of the house and she is also holding some barbed wire in her arm—however, you cannot tell whether she is holding on to the wire or if she’s pulling toward or away from it.
Ms. Rodriguez wanted to make us think about what her pieces mean to ourselves and compare what they mean to her. She explained that for her piece, “No Trespassing, Borders and Bodies,” people make judgements and assumptions based on what your home looks like and that it is inevitable. However, homes don’t define a person and that is the message she tried to convey. A home is a place in which you can truly be yourself, compared to when you’re in places like work, school, etc. Everyone has different personalities or ways they act in other places, but their true personality is based at home where we are comfortable. She then asked us if we think she is pushing or pulling her arms away from each other because everyone will think about the painting differently in that way. She didn’t want to make it obvious so that each person would interpret it in his/her own way that relates to their own personal experience or ideas.
I really enjoyed all the pieces in this installation because they reminded me of my grandmother’s house. In Mexico, embroidery is very common and it is found in any given home because women there really enjoy making blankets, napkins, etc that are embroidered with colorful flowers. All of her pieces had a common theme and that was that the furniture and/or pieces looked worn-down. This also reminded me of my grandmother’s house because she would always let us grandkids play and do whatever we wanted in her home, thus there were a lot of broken chairs, holes in the walls, and things like that. To me, the exhibit was cozy because it seemed so familiar and I enjoyed the mixture of both home-y feeling with the beautiful embroidery. Although my family has lived in the same apartment since I was born, I feel like I have other homes where I feel comfortable and I am able to be myself. I can’t imagine having to move over 30 times in a lifetime although making memories in different places is pretty neat. I really enjoyed Ms. Rodriguez’s installation and I thought it was really beautiful.