Contemporary And: One of the questions I’m interested in is how you bring the concept of home into your practice—the internal, the spiritual, the ritualistic.
Leticia Contreras: Knowing that those row homes [in Chicago’s Hyde Park Art Center artist exchange] evoke so much history I wanted to play with the structure and make it more fluid. I was thinking about being on the gulf coast, about our relationship to water and climate change. It’s like this twofold idea of having space to see each other and witness each other’s practice, and to strategize and create visions for the future. I was really impacted by this last round of socially engaged artists who had an installation called How We Respond to Social Emergencies.
We have to think about the collective and celebrate collective knowledge. My own roots and knowledge that have been passed down to me are about seeing water as a thing that shapes the world around it and the elements held within its context. About all of the memories, the beauty and joy, and also the trauma that lies within the water and our bodies; and how water shapes communities, lives, and landscapes. So instead of trying to control that, how about negotiating and having a conversation with this environment?
C&: I love how you think about water holding shape, which reminds me of Ellen Gallagher’s exhibition Accidental Records at Hauser and Wirth in LA. It also makes me think about your sculptures and your choice to work in fiber.
LC: I think the fiber takes me back to being at home and to the traditions that were passed down to me. I like those materials because I like to celebrate the artistry of Abuelita knowledge that isn’t often celebrated in high art. I like to address the working class knowledge that is often practiced amongst people working in textiles, whether it’s a seamstress or my grandmother. I’m really interested in the lineage of quilt-making, especially in the South. I like the idea of quilt-making as a storytelling device and also this practice of keeping you warm and giving you comfort.