Sánchez brings sleeping art to life

Krista Huey
Staff Writer

Estela Sánchez’s “Shapeshifted” exhibit at the Chan Gallery in Pomona College features the identities of the Coachilicue and Shapeshifter through sculpture, performance and clay. 

Shapeshifters are known by groups in North and South America to be humans who can change into animal forms, while the Coachilicue is seen as a goddess of the Earth. 

“Shapeshifted” features three installations that share themes of feminism, familial roots and the natural Earth.

These themes are displayed throughout the exhibit among sand gathered from the Coachella Valley, red cloths and green ribbons. 

“It is a real combination of works from the past coming together to create a synthesis of different personas to develop the Shapeshifter and Coachilicue,” said Tricia Avant, gallery manager of art. 

The first installation, “Coachilicue: The Body Deconstructed as an Altar,” contains five pieces that bring together the Shapeshifter and Coachilicue.

The installation displays a circular pile of sand on the middle of the floor with a Spanish message saying “Protect us from the force of hate and the systems of oppression. Help us celebrate our Queer Instinct and Wild Heart.”

Within the message of sand lies a clay sculpture of a human breast and belly that honors the queer instinct.

Additionally, behind the sanded message, a red cloth hangs from the wall with a tan Coachilicue headpiece on top of it. 

“Being a part of the LGBTQ community, this piece stuck with me because I also want to see more awareness and acceptance for queers,” said Madeline Clark, Cal State Fullerton sophomore biology major. 

The second portion of the exhibit, “Morphs: Liminal States of Physicality,” is an installation of sculptures made of clay, fabric and sand.

This display features brown clay morphs on a white shelf with sand and pieces of palm. 

Each morph has a unique molded shape because they were made during Sánchez’s dream state.

The clay was placed under Sánchez’s body while sleeping, and the natural movements of their sleep formed the morphs. 

After the morphs were finished, the artist made tiny, straight marks in the morphs to resemble the coyote shapeshifter’s fur. 

“I found this piece to be interesting because I never would have expected these morphs to be made while they were sleeping,” said Panayiota Pieratos, sophomore business administration major.

The last section of the gallery, “Shapeshifted: Creaturehood as Metaphor for Queered Instinct,” centralizes around an animal headdress that is worn by Sánchez in photo and video displays.

The animal headpiece depicts a shapeshifter and lies on top of an elevated platform with a red cloth.

Videos and pictures were shot in the Coachella Valley showing Sánchez wearing the headdress while running, digging and laying on the earth in a fetal position.

The pictures are mounted horizontally on the wall, and the videos play on a wall directly across from the photos. 

“This installation is memorable to me because of the abstract headpiece that Sánchez connected through dance and creative expression,” said Rogelio Soto, University of La Verne junior accounting major. 

The exhibit is open to the public and admission is free. Sánchez’s work will be on display through Feb. 21.

A closing reception will be held at 8 p.m. on Feb. 21 in the Chan Gallery with a live performance by Sánchez.

Krista Huey can be reached at krista.huey@laverne.edu.

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