La Visa Negra is a collection of narratives dealing with time, identity, and place via the cultural crossover between South Texas and Northern Mexico. The base of the conceptual discourse of this work derives from researching and referencing the daily lives and sociopolitical concerns of illegal immigrants living and working in the United States. The entire exhibition is sustainable recycled art created from re purposed clothing gathered from, thrift shops, flea markets (pulgas), and the ropas which are a sort of commercial thrift shop where clothing is sold by the pound. This visual observation has transformed the used clothing or ropas into a media of expression representing the humanized signifier of likely situations as might be experienced by the thousands of nameless and faceless workers. The term Visa Negra is the satirical code known among the people crossing the border illegally through the Rio Grande River and it is the black visa meaning the black inner tube the only required “paperwork” needed to cross the river.
La Visa Negra collection is composed of two areas. The first portion is a series of textile tapestries and the second is a collection of framed quilts referred to as Las Labores. This exhibition contains material gathered at the border wall that immigrants use to cross over such as wooden ladders. There is also an additional artwork titled “A Word on DACA” can be a stand alone piece, due to the direct political comment regarding the disappearance of an opportunity to the children (known as the Dreamers) brought to the United States by their migrating parents. This piece is inspired on North American quilting symbol of “safe house” designed to help runaway slaves escape in the south. “A Word on DACA” is largely created from graduation gowns and honor cords to demonstrate the type of exceptional students that are typically Dreamers. These students are a positive contribution to society, but have been let down by negative political influences that have no humanity, it is all just business: money, money, money — as shown on the edges of the artwork.
The Tapestries. There is a total of three 5ft. x 45in. tapestries. Each tapestry is created on a bed sheet symbolizing a personal view. The bed sheets are also a metaphor of airing laundry code for talking publicly about issues that many want to keep quiet or ignore completely. The tapestries were part of a larger exhibit collaboration titled “Nothing to Declare” which has been exhibited in South Texas and the Philippines. This exhibition was a collaboration with Phyllis Leverich who contributed with photographs from the South Texas Border Region, which are Xerox transfers. All the tapestries are mixed textile appliqué media.
“You Reap What You Sow / Cosecha lo que Siembras” and “Divided Roads Urban/Rural Tapestry” deal with issues of melancholy.
“El Sueño de la Migración / The Migration Dream Tapestry” talk about all kinds of migrations besides humans, such as animals and insects; many of which are becoming endangered by the very wall that obstructs their migration paths. This piece also has seven lucky wooden ladders —one for each day of the week, collected from the border wall, left behind by immigrants crossing illegally. It also has veladoras or candles remembering those who have lost their lives during their effort to reach the new land.
Las Labores is a Spanish term used to mean jobs or duties. This section is composed of a total of twelve 24in. x 24in. x 3in pieces. The number twelve symbolizes the concept that some citizens have of illegal immigrants arriving to the United States seeking refuge. They see faceless illegal immigrant that are worth a dime a dozen. The inner tube represented by the rubber circle in each composition, represent a type of magical portal that many illegal immigrant goes through when they swim across the Rio Grande River on an inner tube escaping the violent reality in their country of origin. This experience offers a new opportunity, a new life, a different level in their lives, hence the reason to include portions of graduation gowns in most of these pieces. The soft textured triangular shapes are inspired by North American quilting symbols designed to help runaway slaves escape in the south. The symbol of these triangular shapes make up a star which stands for, not only a guiding tool, but also as a symbol of dreams and hopes of the North. Search for your golden star. Reach your dream of freedom and equality. Vete al Norte! Go North! Get a new life in the Land of Freedom and Opportunity.
The twelve pieces in the Las Labores Collection present a variety of household employments jobs such as: gardener, maid, cook, nanny, lawn maintenance (yardero), and house cleaning services. Then it also has other commercial employments such as: street vendors, restaurant dishwashers, fruit and veggie pickers, construction workers, and more detailed construction jobs such as roofing and drywall hangers which Hispanic immigrants are famous for their speed and quality. All of these jobs have a high level of labor intensity, typically filled by people who do not have any legal documentation or sometimes have very little formal education. This exhibition is not making a statement about the type of jobs, but about these amazing people worthy of admiration and respect. They are willing to take these difficult labor intensive jobs — in many cases one person has multiple jobs, in order to support their family and provide their loved ones with an honest life. Every day children in schools all over the United States recite the Pledge of Allegiance: “…with liberty and justice for all.” Let these words be true and let everyone have freedom and liberty.
Leila Hernandez, MFA, University of Florida, studied Diseño Artesanal (Handcraft design) at the Universidad Dr. Jose Matias Delgado in the Escuela de Artes Aplicadas Carlos Alberto Imery in her country of origin El Salvador located in Central America, where she learned about ceramics, textiles and metals. Her undergrad thesis was a rescue project to recover and protect the dying knowledge of the backstrap loom practiced at that time only in the small Salvadorean village of Panchimalco. She is an artist, designer, a fervent admirer of popular culture and ancient folklore.
Ms. Hernandez has lived in Europe and visited many museums and cultural centers that have influenced her artistic background such as The Vatican Museum, the Uffizi, Museo Nacional Del Prado, The Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and the Hermitage. She lived in Florence and Paris studying printmaking, drawing, painting and art history. Her thirst of culture and knowledge is unquenched and she looks forward to traveling to lands with rich historic backgrounds in color, texture, and pattern. She is a lover of the Arts and Crafts Movement and an admirer of William Morris and his world influence in Design and Craft.
Even though Ms. Hernandez now resides in the United States, she always finds a way to reconnect to her beloved handcrafts/Artesanias, culture and folklore not just from her country of origin but to other cultures that are immersed in color, texture and pattern.
Ms. Hernandez explores the mixtures of cultures, ideas and opinions in the border area between South Texas and Northern Mexico which she exhibited in Manila, Philippines at an international exhibition at the Jorge B. Vargas Museum titled Nothing to Declare. Ms. Hernandez latest work is titled “La Visa Negra” which is a continuation of Nothing to Declare. This latest exhibition is collection of narratives dealing with border issues and the effects of immigration in refugees living and working in the United States. The media applied in the work is composed mainly of used clothing or ropa usada. This collection is a salute to the contemporary hard working immigrants that are forging their happily ever after in the United States.
A global artist, Ms. Hernandez has lived and traveled abroad in countries such as: Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, England, Russia, Mexico, Colombia as well as Central America: Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Honduras. Ms. Hernandez enjoys and is receptive to the color, texture and compositions in local handcrafts of the countries that she has had the fortune of visiting and those that she has visited through their artwork.
Desert Companion: 2018 Fall Culture Guide: Visual Arts
Instagram: “La Visa Negra” CSN Art Galleries