Latin America

Sandra Monterroso
Rombo para sanar No. 2 (Rhombus for Healing No. 2)

Presented as part of a recent group of works titled The Paradox of Healing, Rhombus for Healing No. 2 by Sandra Monterroso brings together several of the artist’s interests: the use of ritual and medicinal elements; the conciliation of Western and indigenous formal languages; and more recently, sewing as a recognition and celebration of her maternal lineage. The series as a whole and this painting in particular continue her interest in textiles as visual references and cultural tools to address her native Guatemala’s complex political and cultural histories. Her usage of sewing springs from recently acknowledging that members of her family moved from the countryside to the city to work as seamstresses, part of a larger tendency by Indigenous families, deprived of land and basic living conditions, looking for sustenance.

Rombo para sanar No. 2 (Rhombus for Healing No. 2) consists of a diamond-shaped figure sewn onto a surface of organic cotton paper, a reference to geometric abstraction, Mayan güipiles (blouses) compositions, and previous artists who have referenced textiles before such as Margarita Azurdia. The background had been previously painted with indigo, a characteristic material used by Monterroso, while the patch is itself divided into smaller rhombuses which alternate between indigo and turmeric, the later a common ingredient of traditional Indigenous medicinal practices as described in a publication gifted to the artist by her maternal family titled Aspects of Popular Medicine in Rural Guatemala. In applying turmeric to the composition, Monterroso aims at soothing the tension between the image and the materials it’s made from and, symbolically, the two cultural traditions between which the artist oscillates.

Sandra Monterroso is a Guatemalan artist of Maya Q'eqchi' decent. As is the case with many Guatemalans, Maya Q'eqchi' were not completely acknowledged for a significant portion of Monterroso life. In her work, Monterroso explores the dynamics of indigenous culture in the postcolonial era, gender issues, and other constructs of power across media including tapestry, painting, video, installation, and performance. Monterroso started her artistic career in performance in the late 1990s as part of a pivotal generation that helped Guatemala transition from its long civil war to an as of yet unfulfilled peace. Her work aims at contributing to the reparation of continuing colonial practices and power relations in Guatemala while reckoning with an Indigenous past she was indirectly forced to ignore.