Sunday, June 27, 2010

"Woven Lives: Contemporary Textiles from Ancient Oaxacan Traditions” Part 2

Part 2 of interview with Artist/Filmmaker Carolyn Kallenborn:

You have a personal connection to the people and their work as shown in your Ausencia exhibit—could you elaborate?

One of the things that stays with me from my trips is the reality of these people’s lives; there is very little money, few jobs, lots of things they aren’t able to do.

As I’m in these villages and people talk about their kids living in the US having entered illegally. They haven’t seen their kids for years, they can’t get visas to visit the US and for their kids to return home to visit would mean crossing illegally to get back to their U.S. homes.

These are very tight family structures and when the kids leave, the parents may not see them for years, decades. Approximately 30-40% of the young people have left and there is a huge sense of loss of their children.

I wanted to try to tell this story so I interviewed several families. I had someone take me to different families, the stories were unbelievable. One woman had never seen her grandkids; she crossed over the US border illegally to see the grandkids because it’s too dangerous for her daughter to bring them and then have to cross back into the U.S. again.

I created an exhibition called “Ausencia” which means absence, in Spanish. This exhibition is composed of 2000 strings dyed in cochineal and indigo. Each string is attached at the ceiling on one side and tied to a rock below. Some of the rocks are on the floor, and some are suspended in the air, illustrating a sense of isolation, things going away, separating. There’s also the sound of the interviews with the families in English and Spanish. I’m trying to show how this situation feels, the loneliness.

One woman I interviewed pointed out that while I can come visit them, they can’t come visit me [in the U.S.] You’ve got to have money to get a visitor visa and it’s very difficult because the State Dept rules require applicants to have assets in Mexico. A person with assets is considered less likely to violate visa time limits.

The “Ausencia” installation is about drawing attention to this situation and the sense of loss about not being able to see your children. To the see more images of the installation:


Carolyn Kallenborn is an Assistant Professor at UW- Madison in the Design Studies Department. She was an Assistant Professor in the Fiber Department at the Kansas City Art Institute from 2001-2007. She served as conference coordinator/chair for 3 SDA conferences and was SDA’s first website director.

Carolyn was recently chosen to have a major exhibition at Wayne State University's new gallery in March 2011.  Congratulations!

Learn more about Carolyn at:

Learn more about “Woven Lives” at:

Learn more about Andrew Galli at:

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