Engendering New Landscapes
Born in México, Cabrera grew up in El Paso, Texas and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts degree from Hunter College, City University of New York. From a young age, Cabrera was introduced to Mexican craft and folk-art traditions and as a student at Hunter College was educated in visual aesthetics rooted in the Western Canon, both of which have had a heavy influence in her artistic work. In recent years, Margarita Cabrera has split her practice between her individual work and art collaborations. Cabrera’s art collaborations produce work that engages communities through transformative practices on both sides of the Mexico/United States border and has served as an active investigation into the challenges facing immigrant communities such as fair and safe working conditions and economic and cultural empowerment.
Space in Between is a socially engaged community collaboration inspired by the word Nepantla, a Nahuatl Aztec term meaning “the space in the middle” where marginalized cultures create strategies for survival. Late scholar, activist, and author of Borderlands/La Frontera, Gloria Anzaldua states that Nepantla refers to the process of creating alternative spaces to live, function, or create, particularly in the United States/Mexico borderlands. Sewn out of United States border patrol uniforms, the Space in Between sculptures represent various life-size cacti native in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. The surface of these collaborative works features embroidery crafted by immigrant workers that relay compelling border crossing stories that share with the audience a true and honest depiction of immigrant communities.
The Space in Between cacti sculptures will be in dialogue with Cabrera’s most recent United States border patrol uniform sculpture series, Pepita Para El Loro Para Que Hable o Calle whose title is inspired by an old Mexican saying that translates to “A nugget for the parrot so that it speaks or stays quiet.” This new series represents the endangered species of Mexican parrots who are at risk of extinction due to their legal import into the American pet trade. Cabrera’s invitation to initiate a mimicking interaction between the talking parrot sculptures with their audience introduces a satirical light on complicity in a dehumanizing enterprise and instills the question of its origin in all who are present.
Cabrera’s UPLIFT print series will also be showcased. The printed editioned work corresponds to a 2015 public art sculpture commissioned by the City of El Paso that addressed the overcoming of violence along the Mexico/United States border. Citizens of El Paso and Juarez attended the community workshops and drew personal motifs in papel picado (cut paper) for the representation of 600 sculptural birds. The designs were translated into cut-metal with welded fragments of confiscated guns donated by the local Sheriff. UPLIFT represents a flock of birds beginning to take flight. The project is ongoing, and it is Cabrera’s hope that the sculpture will find a home in its intended location in El Paso.