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  • Beth Delany

Q&A with: Yvette Mayorga

Photo: Kevan Penczak

For its second year in a row, Refinery29 has mapped out Chicago as one of its premiere stops on the 29Rooms tour this summer.

The interactive, walk-through experience is more than a museum -- but a diverse festival of emerging artists and well studied social efforts. Not to mention it's the hottest location in town for an Instagram photo opp this summer.

Among the featured artists is Chicagoan Yvette Mayorga whose elaborate installations are closely inspired by her parents emigration from Mexico in an effort to carry out the American Dream and create opportunities for their children. Today, Mayorga encompasses that dream with color, confection and innovation.

Starting July 18th through the 28th, Mayorga's 29Rooms debut will not only aesthetically please exhibit-goers, it will inspire action and even perhaps, change preconceived ideas about what it means to be an immigrant in the United States.

And as Mayorga points out, just because the U.S. and Mexican border is making headlines in 2019, doesn't mean it's news. She's been painting this picture for years.

Your installation is the Chicago representation in 29Rooms's ArtPark. What does your piece bring to the conversation? My art brings the narrative of first generation Mexican-American childhood immigrants and really thinking about the idea of the American Dream. My installation is called "Dreaming of a Dream" and it’s composed of larger than life elements that’s commonly found in my work. I want to start this conversation about the idea of the American Dream and imagine American Dreams, but also reality. The backdrop [includes] sites from the border [and] the violence that happens. It’s a continuation of the conversation that my entire body of work seems to address -- this idea of the American Dream and the false reality of it.

How do you incorporate celebration into your work while honoring your parents' journey? The work is really based off of a lot of research, historical paintings [and] family narratives. I’m [channeling] the labor of my mom as a past baker her in Chicago. [Confection] is a component of the idea of change. I’m referencing her labor in order to have a more palpable and unique way into subject matters.

How do you allow current events to dictate your work? These are things I'm constantly thinking about. [I've been] working on this material -- this idea -- since 2014. The work is not derivative of current day politics. This conversation has been occuring in my family, with relatives [and] with politics before [it was as] highlighted [as it is] now. I'm really excited that within this installation, I was able to include resources to donate and to be able to help out with the crisis on the border. I think the frustrating part of art [when] discussing a specific issue or topic [is] to not have the resources to do something about it.

Who do you want to see your artwork and what do you want them to take away?

People who maybe are misinformed the current border situation or who have a formed opinion that’s anti-immigrant I would like to see the installation. I hope that maybe it can shift their perspective in a way. I think that’s asking a lot from art, but that’s the obvious dream scenario.

How have your parents reacted to your art? They're really proud that I'm able to highlight their history here in the U.S. It makes them proud that I decided on my own that I wanted to talk about thi. Sometime some things are hard to understand for relatives who aren't artists. That's a common thread amongst artists and families. But this art is so personal. This is really for them.

29Rooms runs through July 28th at the Skylight at the Chicago Board of Trade Building. Reserve your tickets here.


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