Ada Luisa Trillo wins the Guardian portfolio review for her documentary on migrant caravans.
In January 2020, fleeing violence and poor economic conditions, a group of Hondurans organised a huge migrant caravan that travelled through Guatemala into Mexico. After travelling for eight days, the caravan crossed the Suchiate River into Mexico and were met by the recently established Guardia Nacional composed of former federal, military and naval police.
We can travel back in time with this Mexican Amate Paper. This ancient paper dates back to pre-Columbian and Meso-American times, and is still hand made by the Otomi Indian artisans of Mexico using the same methods of their Mesoamerican ancestors from 3000 years ago. It has been used through the ages in religious, and legal texts, and as a canvas for painting.
Made from Amate, Nettle, and Mulberry trees, the unique and earthy tones of the trees perfectly blend together for a beautiful paper. The differing bark textures and shapes create a granite look across the surface.
I have just ordered some of this paper. A bark paper and a lace paper, along with some book binding tools. Excited to begin work with these new tools and surfaces. I really like that these are all handmade by the Otomi Indians in Mexico.
At my exhibition for Landings I had a few inquiries on how some of my work was made, especially camera less images and cyanotypes. I suggested that I could run a workshop to share my ideas, and help people to feel confident about making their own images. This idea had to be put on hold for the time being, due to rapidly rising COVID 19 cases here in Texas.
“I really didn’t have much to teach. I didn’t even believe in it. I felt so strongly that everybody had to find their own way. And nobody can teach you your own way….In terms of art, the only real answer that I know of is to do it. If you don’t do it, you don’t know what might happen.” Harry Callahan, 1991.
Robert Adams quotes Harry Callaghan in his book Why People Photograph. While I don’t necessarily agree that I do not have anything to teach, I very much agree with his statement ‘the only real answer is to do it’. It can be difficult for some to move out of the thinking about art stage. I am definitely driven to taking action, to make work, to accept failures and to learn from them.
ADAMS, Robert. 1994. Why People Photograph: Selected Essays and Reviews. 1st ed. New York: Aperture.
Submissions are done, but I am finding it hard to stop making things. I’m treating this a a sort of calming meditation, badly needed after the last few months.
After reading my new book Bound, by Rachel Hazell I decided to make a Turkish fold map with some migrant journeys printed inside. I did want to make it a little different from Hazells’ so I made three map folds, then made them into an accordion book dummy. As a test it worked quite well, however I would like to scale the next one up, I think that at this size it struggles to convey my message.
This week has been busy finalizing images for WIPP, work in progress portfolio. The difficulties were trying to connect my visually split folio. It was suggested that by being really selective, cutting the images back may help. It really did help, although it was quite difficult to choose what images to leave out. This has definitely given me the confidence to really be critical in selecting work. As a result I feel much happier with my selection of artworks. They cohere, and therefore show better.
I have now completed and submitted my PK. This was a difficult excercise for me, I spent a great deal of time trying to get it right. Time well spent, I’m quite happy with the result. Hopefully this addresses any questions on what my work is actually about.
Textures and traces of migrants work, the tar, the paint, the evidence in the builders tape, half painted walls and fences, and the eventual covering up. Erasing all those beautiful marks. I’m happy to have made a record of all these things.
Covid 19 has made certain things difficult to navigate. We are still isolated kids are still out of school. Out of these difficulties new work has been made, new discoveries in mark making made, and new and exciting explorations. This had been a pivotal moment for me and my work.
Looking ahead at the next three modules I feel that interdisaplinary work will still be a part of my practice. I enjoy pushing boundaries, and employing new methodology. Book making, and printmaking will most certainly be a part of my work going forward. Perhaps taking printmaking further towards sculptural installation could be something to explore.
You may have heard someone from the US state that they work two or three jobs. This is not uncommon, it is known as gig working or side hustling. Most reputable companies will cover their staff for vacations, healthcare and workers insurance. Gig working does not cover any of these things. Construction work and domestic work is gig work, this leaves the worker exposed in many ways, especially construction work, where accidents happen all the time. Health care costs in the US are incredibly expensive.
W Kamau Bell covers this is his series The United Shades of America. He interviews gig workers, some of whom work six jobs, not because they want to, but because they have to.
My interests in migration have been long term due to personal background. It was helpful to have a webinar with peers who do not know what my work is about, this shone a light on a problem. It was difficult to show photographs alongside mixed media in a coherent way, due to COVID 19 my work had to shift which has left me with a visually split portfolio.
My methodology has continued to be diverse, I feel that this could be part my way forward. I recently bought a book by Rachel Hazell on various bookbinding methods. Perhaps there could be a lead from this work to the next module where I can incorporate some of these ideas to sit alongside further silo images.
We remain in lockdown in Houston, so for the foreseeable future I can only photograph around my home. I feel that to do this would only further fracture my work, so this is not an approach that I will be taking. I’m not sure how this will work out going forward, but I aim to keep my options open with regards to making books and interdisaplinary work.
This week I am spending time working on my critical research journal, work in progress portfolio and pecha kucha presentation.
Migration has been a constant presence in my life, as our family first relocated to Yemen when I was months old and we would relocate every three years, thereafter. This background has left me with a deep connection with other migrants. My current home is Houston, Texas, which is diverse and has a large migrant community that provides the workforce backbone of the city.
The area that I am focussing on is on the outskirts of Houston where there is a rapid and ongoing expansion. The original dwellers in the area were the Mayan, Apache, Tonkawa tribes, who all left marks of their presence in the area, although it is only really visible in street names.
My intent is to document and illustrate the evidence of the migrant journeys, and the trace evidence left behind from their labours. The hand rendered walls, the years of tar and paint applications applied in extreme weather conditions. The vilified migrant, and their artwork go unnoticed. They are both metaphorically removed when the stucco is applied.
The shift created by COVID-19 brought about a meditative, reflective approach to recording these journeys and hand renderings. Drawing on my own experiences and influences, including Brice Marden and Cy Twombly gave me inspiration for camera-less work, turning to printmaking and mixed media.
This has resulted in following a path that I did not see at the start of my journey, but one that has moved me to produce images that I feel capture my thoughts of a very complex historical issue that is still being played out today.