Oct 30, 2011

REVIEW| Mariana Yampolsky: The Edge of Time, Photographs of Mexico | The Wittliff Collections as Texas State University | San Marcos, Texas

Wittliff Collections at University Texas State

The smooth quick ride up to the seventh floor in the Alkek library at the University of Texas State left me with an abrupt tickling feeling in my lower stomach due to the elevators bouncing stop. As I exited out to the left and make my way forward I was greeted at the heart of the Wittliff Collections by a smiling work study briefing me over the current running exhibitions. 
Entering into the first room I felt though as if I arrived in an entirely new building. The setting of the space carried a fluent and formal South Texas interior design with terracota stone colored tiles, off white cream walls, and Sedona red stained wood on the molding and ceiling. Elegant yet folky and with the temperature set at a comfortable 69 degrees fahrenheit created a pleasant gallery space reflective on the core concentration of the entire Wittliff Collections, South-West and Mexican history.  Black modern ottomans with steel frames carried a relationship with the black and white matt framed photographs uniformly placed on the wall. 

The first exhibition to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary at the Wittliff is that of Mariana Yampolsky: The Edge of Time, with 60 silver-gelatin images of rural Mexico created over the span of 30 years between 1964 to 1994. Her retrospective will be on view from May 16 - December 11, 2011. Yampolsky reflects on her work of her time in Mexico by saying. 
Since time Mexico has suffered a fiery, tortuous history of abuse, poverty, neglect for a thousand years, and yet endured to create a vibrant culture filled with art, music, ritual, and mystery. My photos capture the situations, traditions, customs, and rituals within their daily lives of those who live here.
Growing up at the tip of South Texas my recollections of home and Mexico were all vividly reconciled in Yampolsky's photographs. Housed in a loving Catholic home with my grandmother, her being the only reason why I can speak Spanish and continue to practice today roots my hispanic heritage this much tighter when meditating on Yampolsky's work. I was recalling my grandmothers stories of growing up in Mexico and remembering myself visiting there regularly as a child. The Mexico I remember then and that of which is documented within these pictures is not necessarily the same Mexico today.  With drug cartels running strong, disturbing the peace and our border towns. At first glance one may over look the surface of Mexico just as abused and poverty ridden. But if people would become aware of South Texas and Mexico's history they'd live much richer lives with a deeper appreciation. Yampolsky has done just this, she has lived and breathed the air of Mexico's rich culture and "gave tribute to them as they are - not as exotic objects for the lens". The artist also shares, "There is no arranging here, no posing, no invasion, but rather shared moments in time". 


In one of these photos held in the gallery is Recreo, Recess, stands a young girl no older than the age of five peering into the lens unalarmed as she innocently wiggles her fingers her waist. Locked in an intimate gaze with this angelic adolescent I wondered what beauties and horrors those big glossy eyes have witnessed through out her life time. It wasn't till after this thought did I read the description of this picture, taken in 1989, same year I was born. Where is she now, she would not be much older than I am today? 

A flood of little goosebumps overcame my body as I dug deeper into this thought.  During this year in two different regions exists two young females with the same heritage who have led two different lives unaware of one another.  And although this girl who I see in the photo may never know of me I now carry some sense of a connection for all the pervious mentioned reasons.  

Osario, Pauper's Grave, 1973, Gelatin Silver Print, 7"x8"

Another photograph that caught my eye was Osario, Pauper's Grave with its eery silhouette of a mesquite tree in the background and nopales conquering the top of this home made shack that would be found in my grandmas backyard. Sentimental homesick feelings intoxicated my heart when reminding myself of all the mischief my brother, cousins, and I would and could possibly get ourselves into climbing and rummaging this worn out shack for any little thing we could claim as treasure such as the two human skulls placed in the door way.

Inspired after my first visit to the Wittfliff Collection and learning of their focus on joining of the literary and photographic archives of the Southwest and Mexico has expanded my passion for my heritage.  I can now only hope that others are as willing to be inspired to feel what I have sustained. 

-Liliane Ledesma

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