Home Is an Intimate Space: Amalia Mesa-Bains & “Transparent Migrations” December 1, 2017

The work of California-based artist Amalia Mesa-Bains is often autobiographical, relating to her Mexican and Catholic heritage. Her installation Transparent Migrations, on view in HOME—So Different, So Appealing, features a mirrored armoire, glass leaves, a gauze dress, a lace mantilla, and assorted crystal miniatures—an assemblage that evokes spiritual concepts such as “reflection,” “illumination,” and “transparency.” The surrounding glass landscape suggests the rugged terrain of Southwestern Mexico, home to plant life that symbolizes sustainability, endurance, and resilience.

Transparent Migrations embodies the idea of “home” through the use of her personal armoire and the most intimate detail: the mantilla, or veil, that she wore to her wedding 51 years ago. I talked with Mesa-Bains about the installation.

What do you hope visitors take away from Transparent Migrations?
I think it’s a work that invites contemplation. I want people to find some sense of peace and some sort of meditative quality, but also maybe to wonder what these things stand for even if they don’t have a background in Latino art history. I think the plants and the small dress hanging will give some sense that this is a place where people feel safe, and it’s a place where they can endure.

How does your work speak to the theme of “home”?
Most of my work as an artist has been around the theme of “home.” I am a first-generation Chicano [a person of Mexican origin or descent], and one of the roles I occupied was that of someone who made ofrendas—so most of my early work was centered around the home altar. I felt from the very beginning, when I learned of this exhibition, that this was a place for my work, because I had a long history of this theme.

What is significant about having your work on view in Houston?
Of course, Houston is a major venue for art, but it’s also important to me that it’s a city with a large Latino population. I feel very happy to be here among many artists, both from the United States and Latin America, in a city that embodies the Latino presence that is part of America now.

See more in “HOME—So Different, So Appealing,” on view in the Law Building through January 21.