Yo Soy From by Vanessa González may not be the most visually striking piece in the Dixon Gallery & Gardens' "Location, Location, Location" exhibit, but, literally and figuratively, it says a lot — particularly about the artist's state of mind. Wild bits of thread that want to twist and friz and be unruly have been tamed and molded into cursive letters telling a story in mixed-up Spanish and English. The piece lists some basic facts about a life — family members and favorite foods. It also tells a secret story — a story about a Mexican-American artist living in a perpetual state of translation. "I think in Spanish," González says in perfect English. She uses art to translate the conflicting emotions of a Mexican-American immigrant into something universal.
Place, identity, travel, and dislocation are narrative threads connecting a trio of exhibits currently on display at the Dixon. "Power & Piety: Spanish Colonial Art" looks at Catholic Spain's influence on the art and culture of South America. "Edward Giobbi: An Artist Comes to Memphis" explores the lasting impact a peripatetic painter had on the Bluff City after spending only a year here in the 1960s. "Location, Location, Location" binds the exhibits together, bringing together a body of work by a pair of Mexican-American artists who are both Memphis College of Art graduates.
González was still in high school when she moved to America with her parents She vividly recalls all the ways she was constantly reminded that she was from somewhere else. "I'd go to the doctor and have to choose between checking off a box that said Hispanic, Latina, or Mexican American. I'm all three of them. Why did I have to choose?" she asks. Art school is where she finally found her niche.
"MCA didn't have a large Hispanic community, but they made me feel welcome," González says. That's when she started to use art to explore conflicting emotions about her evolving identity with pieces like Yo Soy From and "Collados," a collection of shattered ceramic faces with their mouths sewn shut. Bullet casings drip from sealed lips.
"Location, Location, Location" also collects work by Fidencio Fifield-Perez who builds collaged multimedia work from old maps.