New, vibrant art exhibit channels Latino heritage

By Lauran Nalin

Seven artists contributed their work to Columbia’s first art exhibition of the year, “Layer Cake: Tales from a Quinceañera,” which began on Sept. 8.

The concept behind the exhibit, which is in conjunction with Latino Cultural Affairs, was created by project coordinator Camille Morgan. A Quinceañera is a traditional Latino celebration for young girls entering into womanhood, which takes place on their fifteenth birthday.

“I felt a need to have some sort of art exhibit to celebrate National Latino Heritage Month, so I got to thinking about what a Quinceañera means to girls today and just adolescent girls in general,” Morgan said. “It’s a really old tradition, so maybe [the exhibit] compare[s] how it was celebrated a long time ago versus how it is celebrated in U.S. society today. I called it ‘Layer Cake’ because there are many layers of meaning and cake is another big part of the whole celebration, so I thought it was fitting.”

One of the contributing artists, Judithe Hernández, made two pieces specifically for the exhibit.

“I found the subject rather interesting and compelling,” Hernández said. “Camille knew my pieces wouldn’t be whimsical or light.  My point of view on things are usually a social and political kind of perspective,  so she wondered what I might do for her and I agreed to submit some work. Lots of my work relies on my cultural background.”

Hernández’s work deals with women’s issues and she thought the exhibit would be a chance to get a younger audience to talk about the rites of passage that go along with the Quinceañera celebrations.

“Not just Mexican, but most ancient societies have some sort of rite of passage, and I thought it would be interesting to give my perspective, to compare and contrast or to tell the continuum in a pictorial way,” Hernández said. “It’s not just a party; it’s not just a dress. It’s a girl becoming a woman and all that implies,  especially now in the 21st century. Becoming a woman is so much more than what it used to be.”

The opening reception for the exhibit will be held on Sept. 15 in the C33 Gallery located in the 33 E. Congress Parkway Building from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. Morgan’s goal for the reception is to make attendees feel as if they were attending a traditional Quiceañera.

“There’s going to be Mexican food, Latino cultural games and student musicians playing traditional religious music, which I think is pretty cool with the whole Critical Encounters ‘Fact and Faith’ theme,” Morgan said. “There is this whole religious side to Quinceañeras that sometimes you don’t see today or is left out for some reason due to society changing or different values changing, so it will be interesting to explore.”

Another event that will take place is a panel discussion, which will be held on Oct. 22 at 3 p.m. in the Hokin Annex, located on the first floor of the Wabash Campus Building, 623 S. Wabash Ave.  The discussion topic for the panel will be “Quinceañera: Spiritual Rite of Passage or ‘My Super Sweet Fifteen’ Blowout Bash … or Both?”

Priscilla Mills, one of the panelists in the discussion, is the author of Quinceañera Connection: Your Dream Celebration on Any Budget, which covers topics such as creating a budget, choosing the right venue and getting the best deals to make the day as memorable as you can without having to worry about funding issues that many families go through.

“Too many people and too many families are being influenced by MTV and Hollywood,” Mills said. “These shows make it seem as though [the] more you spend, the better the celebration is, and my approach is totally opposite. After the ceremony, the bills pile up and the memories fade. It’s sad because the focus is taken off the educational component of somebody’s life.”