Artist: Dulce Soledad Ibarra
Media: mixed, sculpture
Gallery: Gatov West
About the Artist
Dulce Soledad Ibarra’s family immigrated from Leon, Guanajuato during the 1980’s before she was even born. She is a first generation student and citizen of the United Sates. Dulce is from Chino Hills, Ca and is currently studying at CSULB for a BFA in sculpture. She likes to consider herself as an “art collective of Chicano, Mexican, brown, black women and queer folk.”She is an inspiration to anyone who has the chance to meet her.
I first heard about Dulce Ibarra at the CSULB Zine Fest, where she had a few of her own zines being showcased. She dabbles in mixed media, but she focuses more on sculpture. Her most recent art exhibit, “Recuerdos,” is a 3-D, walk-through, interactive art sculpture.
The foundation of “Recuerdos” consists of basic bedroom furniture pieces including a wardrobe, piano, desk, sitting stool, night stand, and bookcase. All of the furniture is painted a pastel, sunshine yellow and are crammed to the edges with many of Dulce’s aunts’ belongings.
Dulce’s aunt is what many people consider to be a hoarder, and after her death four years ago, Dulce’s family inherited everything she owned. Many of her things consisted of old dolls, small nicknacks from parties, centerpieces, cassettes, and other miscellaneous things some of us would consider as “junk.”
There isn’t much rhyme or reason as to how the “junk” is ordered on the shelves, but the placement of the big furniture seems to have a point. The desk is at the center of the sculpture, topped with a sewing machine that Dulce’s aunt used to use to sew the family clothes or other things. It is surrounded by the everything else. It’s worth noting that everything is in very close proximity and open towards the desk, except the piano. The piano is the only thing that does not face the desk and faces the outside. I don’t know why Dulce placed it this way, but she did. Perhaps it is like an invitation to the audience to come close and play, to see the inside.
“Recuerdos” is very reminiscent of a bedroom setting but without a bed. The objects within the shelves and the clothes hanging in the wardrobe are personal belongings of someone who once lived. Dulce’s aunt was a cheesy, hilarious, sweet woman who was full of laughter and a parent to a young Dulce, who’s own parents were never really there emotionally.
Recuerdos is the Spanish word for memories, and this exhibit is full of them. In every nook and cranny, there is a small memory token with a date from a party, someone’s name, or a picture, everything has a story. In a sense, you could say that one of the themes of this exhibit is about the value we place on objects. Not to say anything rude but it goes like the saying, “one man’s trash, is another’s treasure.” But that’s only because we all place different values on the objects. Dulce’s aunt valued all of these little trinkets, but now Dulce has struggled to see what value they had to her aunt and the reasons she couldn’t part with them. Dulce is the exact opposite of her aunt in this sense because according to her, she would have never let them accumulate like this.
However, the exhibit isn’t just about the value we place on objects, it is also about the way we see the people we love. It is about the way we remember them once they have gone. Dulce’s aunt died of an autoimmune disease that they couldn’t really pinpoint, and they didn’t want an autopsy of the body because they didn’t want to remember her sick. They wanted to remember her by the way she was, strong willed and like a mother. She was a light, a bright spot in all the darkness that surrounds immigrants. After all, her furniture was painted yellow.
If you saw the exhibit, you would agree that it looks like what a hoarder’s room might look like. That brings us to the last theme Dulce tries to achieve with the exhibit. A theme revolving around mental disorders caused by great suffering. The trip from Mexico to the US is one filled with many horrors, and often bad things happen to everyone who attempts to go through the journey. It is never easy, and many people rarely come out unscathed. Dulce’s family has a record of mental illnesses, and this exhibit places hoarding as the main one. Who knows if Dulce’s aunt was always the way she was, but she definitely got worse after the journey and as the years went by.
I usually get emotionally sad when looking at an exhibit, but in this case, I felt the opposite. When I walked into the exhibit, the first thing I saw was a Jesus calendar that I could have sworn I saw in the morning hanging in my kitchen near the fridge. I was confused, and I felt that I had walked into familiar territory. Honestly, I had a sort of de Java moment where I could have sworn I had seen this before. As I kept looking at the exhibit I saw so many things that were part of my culture, of my heritage, things that I had grown up seeing. The “recuerditos,” from quinceñeras or first communions, are things that are extremely common to find in any Mexican household. The shelves full of muñecas – dolls, are the way I decorate my room. Dulce’s aunt used to make dolls out of scraps of cotton linen and would sow them together to either play or sell on the street. My mom has told me stories of when she live in Mexico and do the same things.
Seeing the wardrobe open and full of clothes made me want to play dress up, even if they were a dead lady’s things. I didn’t care, I felt like I was at home. And seeing the hand knitted blankets, made me want to curl up on the couch and watch a novel with a warm cup of Mexican hot chocolate.
I love “Recuerdos” the exhibit as a whole because it reminds so much of what my grandmother’s house was like, what my mom’s house will be like, and what my house might be like in the future. Not crammed, not like a hoarder, but with those few trinkets that remind us of other times.
I also loved the experience of talking to Dulce. I feel that we often don’t speak to the artist of the art and that we should because in many cases meeting the artist elevates the experience of seeing the art itself. Dulce’s family is from the same place my family is from, and where I was born. I felt an instant connection with her. In Leon, there is always the possibility that someone has heard of you before you have ever really met them. It is possible that my family might have known Dulce’s before we were even born.
But your persona is not just about where you come from. Heritage is important, and Dulce embraces it in a way I never could, and for that, I will always look up to her.