The Harris Art Gallery hosted a reception for the art exhibition “Cluttercore, Rasquachismo, and the Indelible Need to Display,” curated by Rachel Schmid on Tuesday. The exhibition will be on display until Nov. 30.
Guests showed up early, grabbing programs and snacks from the table set up along the west wall parallel to the entrance.
“Art is like this endless well, and when I start to feel like my cup is getting a little empty, I can go to that well and it will always help fill it up,” Schmid, formerly of California Lutheran University now an independent curator, said.
The exhibition focused on two design aesthetics, cluttercore and rasquachismo, and the intersection between them.
The term cluttercore was coined in 2020. Embedded in self-expression, cluttercore gained significance in the age of social media, especially during the pandemic, where Zoom backgrounds exposed intimate spaces.
The essential elements of Cluttercore involve collecting and curating objects based on personal appeal and displaying them in abundance. Common themes include live plants, vibrant colors, mismatched art, knick-knacks, thrift store finds and occasional religious iconography.
“Anyone could do this. Everyone curates everything, your music collection, the things in your house, your bedspread, what toothpaste you have. I just decided to do it with pretty objects,” Schmid said.
The rasquachismo aesthetic was officially titled in 1989 by scholar Tomás Ybarra-Frausto. He described it as, “an underdog perspective, a view from los de abajo (the ones below).”
Rasquachismo is deeply rooted in literature, theater and the musical and visual arts and serves as neither an idea nor a style but more of an attitude or taste. Translating to tacky, cheap, or ghetto, the term is proudly embraced by Chicanos (Mexican Americans), representing a mentality that transcends mere survival to thrive by making do with available materials through DIY practices and place-making.
“I appreciate that we have something that has some influence from the greater southern hemisphere, Latinidad, but something that is just us,” Schmid said.
Walking through the exhibition was like coming home after a long day of work. Many pieces within the collection showcased a rich tapestry of objects, ideas and depictions centered around family, particularly grandmothers. Each artwork seemed to echo the familiar embrace of home, inviting viewers to immerse themselves in the warmth and nostalgia of familial connections.
“We can never get back the time that we have or that we lose, so art just makes me happy and it’s exciting to do,” artist Melora Garcia said.
Garcia draws inspiration from the artistic legacy of her mother and grandmother. Her grandmother was the first artist she encountered, she said. While both her mother and grandmother were adept at crocheting, Garcia takes a unique approach by incorporating fabrics in her artwork. One piece shows her depiction of a wedding pillow that her grandmother knitted. She used a fine lace over clay to make her own version of what she saw in a photograph.
Garcia weaves her Native American heritage into her art through the incorporation of braided fabric and materials. Her art becomes a canvas for acknowledging the hardships endured by farmworkers, a tribute to her family’s toil in the grape fields. Garcia emphasizes the labor-intensive nature of her artistic process, highlighting the dedication and effort poured into each piece as she translates personal experiences and heritage into meaningful artwork.
“Hearing other people’s story always hits differently every time I see a piece based on someone else’s perspective of the world,” Nikolina Katanic, senior art history major, said.
One of Garcia’s notable pieces, named “Carpets, Vaccines, and Emanuel Dreams,” stands as a compelling embodiment of personal narrative. It fuses an array of elements, incorporating personal items and found materials. At its core lies a carving shaped like a sonogram image of her ovarian cyst.
The piece is an accumulation of repurposed and recontextualized junk mail. Hanging down from the artwork are long strands of branded fabric, some reaching all the way to the floor. The longest strand leads and delicately wraps around a photo of her grandmother, artfully transferred onto clay.
Situated in the northwest corner of the room were two works by Tessie Salcido Whitmore. Three rustic brown macramé hangers formed a triangle – two in the back and one in the front. The tassels of two hangers gently brushed against the ground, adding a touch of casual elegance. Instead of hosting greenery, the hangers held afghan and quilted blankets with a “grandma” aesthetic that cascaded over the sides, creating an unconventional, cozy atmosphere. It was like a winding path of soft fabric, reminiscent of a vine with leaves so low they brush against your head as you walk by.
“I have the need to create inherently in my bones,” Salcido Whitmore said.
The metal rings at the top of each hanger were cleverly fastened to the ceiling hooks by a chain of zipties. This makeshift connection not only served a functional purpose but also added an artistic flair to the arrangement. The entire scene conveyed a sense of warmth and creativity.
Giana Froio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.