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Mending a Country, and Taking a Stand, Through Art

Credit Christopher Gardner Photography
Red Wall I.
"When artists take a stand, people listen."
Corina S. Alvarezdelugo

Packed inside a small travel bag and tucked away on a shelf in her cozy New Haven studio, artist Corina Alvarezdelugo keeps her precious scraps of fabric protected. Beyond valuable, these throwaways come in various textures, colors, and playful patterns, gathered long ago in her homeland of Venezuela. 

As a young mom with three children, Alvarezdelugo once made patchwork quilts, and sewed dresses and curtains. Today, over a decade later, her bundle of remnants represent a deeply personal journey from the past to the present. For her,  they hold the power to re-kindle those feelings which she refuses to forget or discard.

Thinking practically, the fabrics become the tools of Alvarezdelugo's creativity, and the key ingredients to her textural, visual storytelling. “I’m a material hoarder,” she said. “I save everything that seems to have potential for something else.”

Credit Barry Levine
Barry Levine
Corina S. Alvarezdelugo.
Gnarly twists and turns of sharp coils reflect a wall of separation between the desired and the unobtainable, representing a tragic perspective on today's Venezuelan people.

In her new series of encaustic paintings and mixed media canvases, Alvarezdelugo has skillfully transferred those potent memories from her well-traveled suitcase and shaped them into statements about the country of her youth. For her, a once beautiful and community-centered Venezuela was overtaken by chaos and fear during the rise of the Hugo Chavez regime in 1998. She noted that it continues today under President Nicolas Maduro.

Ask Alvarezdelugo about her position on all this, and she doesn’t much stay quiet on the subject of using art to speak out: “To silence that voice that we have inside, I don’t think that’s good. Because I think we have a powerful tool…. when artists take a stand, people listen.” 

Today, Alvarezdelugo's treasured swatches and her beloved Venezuela are represented in an exhibition fittingly called "Remendando mi Patria (Mending My Country)." Combining imagery that’s both realistic and abstract, her exhibition is currently being showcased at the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford. It is part of the fourth annual Noche Latina, a celebration of Latino culture that happens this Friday October 17 at 6:30 pm, and also features the music of Daniel Salazar and his ensemble.

Using the ancient encaustic painting methods, Alvarezdelugo’s works reflect her experiments with paint, fabric, and layering hot wax to gain the desired perspective and clarity on the subjects within each frame.

Credit Christopher Gardner Photography
Utopia I.

"Remendando mi Patria" represents the bridge between Alvarezdelugo’s past, and the creative world she’s built in Connecticut since moving here more than a decade ago. At that time, the dangers of a dictatorship threatened her family in Venezuela.

"My family is in politics, so our family was a target," Alvarezdelugo said. "Our kids were a target… They couldn’t go anywhere without a bodyguard. They shouldn’t be growing up in that situation, so that’s when we decided it's better to get out."

Eventually, Alvarezdelugo made the difficult decision to permanently move her family to the U.S. and New Haven, where her father and several uncles had ties to Yale University. Once she discovered the fine arts, and then pursued a degree at Albertus Magnus College, her creative work became her voice. "This is my time to speak up…my country needs mending," she said. "It needs to be patched. What's better than fabric?"

Credit Christopher Gardner Photography
Peace Interrupted I.
The exhibit aims to inform a younger generation about political oppression in a larger world, and to see beyond the comforts of America.

When I asked Alvarezdelugo about two particular works in her collection that make up "Red Wall," she explained how the images reveal the juxtaposition of beauty and barbed wire in her homeland. Working with wax, paint, and her swatches of fabric, she sets the beautiful fabric as muted colors deep in the background of the frame, then overpowers them with foreground photos of ominous, black barbed wire.

The gnarly twists and turns of the sharp coils reflect a wall of separation between the desired and the unobtainable, representing Alvarezdelugo’s tragic perspective on today’s Venezuelan people.

Alvarezdelugo said passionately, “That represents a lack of freedom in my home country. There are birds, animals, flowers, there’s the ocean… all these things happening behind that barbed wire. Hopefully that will make the public think about it, and see how a corrupt government can destroy all the beauty that a country has.”

Through "Remendando Mi Patria," currently on exhibit through October 19, Alvarezdelugo hopes to generate awareness about the issues and strife that continue in her homeland. She suggested that it’s one way to inform our younger generation, including college students, about political oppression in a larger world, and to see beyond the comforts of America.

It’s a responsibility and dialogue Alvarezdelugo takes very seriously, but admits she still lets her creative work do most of the initial talking. "I’m not good at talking," she said in her studio, surrounded by whimsical pottery and abstract paintings. "But I think I’m good with visuals, and that’s what I’m trying. I’m trying to bring out what’s inside of me so people can feel it."

Noche Latina takes place Friday at 6:00 pm at the Carol Autorino Center for the Arts and Humanities on the campus of the University of St. Joseph. Reception followed by the music of Daniel Salazar and ensemble; suggested donation $5.00.

Ed is an Emmy Award-winning producer and arts writer.

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