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“Her Deeds” redefines culture and challenges traditional artistry

A recent exhibit in downtown Charlottesville showcases a multi-talented Latina artist with mixed-media works

<p>The multi-award-winning artist and educator at George Mason University and the University of Richmond has been shown at more than a dozen museums and galleries.&nbsp;</p>

The multi-award-winning artist and educator at George Mason University and the University of Richmond has been shown at more than a dozen museums and galleries. 

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 The latest exhibit at Second Street Gallery, titled “Her Deeds,” was on full display from Dec. 2, 2022 through Jan. 21, 2023 for the Charlottesville community, showcasing a versatile Latina artist, Mariana Parisca. Parisca redefines traditional perceptions about the Latinx experience and culture while keeping visitors on their toes by using unique mediums. 

Parisca is a Venezuelan-American interdisciplinary visual artist, creating sculptures, videos and installations for her exhibit. The multi-award-winning artist and educator at George Mason University and the University of Richmond has been shown at more than a dozen museums and galleries. 

Her work goes above and beyond with the help of collaborators — longtime friends and other artists — resulting in artworks that use mediums like large LED lights reading “PRAISE YOUR MOTHER / AMA A LA MAMÁ,” fabricated glass vases and unique scents. Parisca sees her collaborations as not just a fun process, but a new way of thinking that allows contributors to combine their skills and knowledge.

“I love collaborating with people. I like to think about not just the art objects themselves, but where they live in the world and the life I create around them,” Parisca said. “I think connecting with people on a project that you both feel connected to or passionate about is just such a beautiful way of relating to somebody.”

Since the exhibition opened in early December, the “Her Deeds” artist has been heavily interactive with Charlottesville community members. Having done workshops and artist talks before, Parisca decided to host — for the first time — a guided meditation at Second Street Gallery. Parisca said she was grateful for the opportunity to create with the community, taking honor in her ability to encourage individuals to come together and create conversations. 

Her work often invokes conversation about the immigrant perspective. Paying homage to her motherland, Parisca created “Viscous Illusion Incorporation,” a topographical map of Lake Maracaibo — a lagoon in Venezuela — by knitting steel, Venezuelan Bolivares, U.S. dollars and gum wrappers. The knitted map is a commentary on the current global economy of Venezuela and the hyperinflation of its Bolivar currency. 

As a young immigrant from Venezuela, Parisca quickly realized that political and social issues have always played a significant role in shaping her life. This realization manifested in her early work, which often explored the cultural experiences of immigrants. In light of the ongoing turmoil in her home country, Parisca now hopes to use her art as a means of drawing attention to and effecting change in the situation that has so deeply affected her.

“Since I moved to the US, Venezuela has been going through very politically unstable periods,” Parisca said. “I want to try to use my art to try to find ways to address the issues that are causing these crises and create ways to create community and support each other.”

“Her Deeds” sparks conversation on the socio-political status of Venezuela while at the same time tapping into the sense of the viewer. Pieces like “Shadow I” incorporate nostalgic Latinx  fragrances of papaya, guava and billowing smoke, featuring flowers made out of carbonized wood. She also taps into the sense of touch with her final piece — a collaboration with Christine Buckley — which incorporates homemade candies infused with kava kava root, carob pod, cinnamon, sarsaparilla root and ginger root. 

Amidst the diverse array of artwork in the exhibit, a small monitor on the wall, where Parisca ventures into the field of filmography. The monitor displays a thought-provoking 12-minute film titled, “Sinvergüenza,” which means shameless. 

Featuring the “Her Deeds” artist and Larí García, the film is a sequence of uncanny events to which Parisca refers to as a ritual to address mourning spirits by popular romantic nationalist stories. One motif in the film is the use of the papaya — a popular South American fruit. 

In the ritual film, Parisca and Garcia are seen cutting a papaya in half with a double-sided knife — that same knife is featured in the exhibit. As the fruit is opened, coins can be seen hidden within the seeds, which serves as another reference to the hyperinflation in Venezuela. Other elements in the videos such as smoke and fire symbolize rebirth resulting from spiritual decolonization.

“Her Deeds” is a beautiful representation of a Latina artist who pursues a new way of thinking while entwining personal elements from her respective culture. From broad topics of global economies, politics and culture, this exhibit strikes home to those of Latinx heritage. On top of that, the use of different mediums gives a fresh and surprising interaction to each art piece that welcomes all of one’s senses.   

While the exhibit “Her Deeds” has recently concluded, Parisca remains busy and relevant in the art industry. For those interested in seeing her work in other locations, Parisca has a permanent installation of her LED lights, “PRAISE YOUR MOTHER/ AMA A LA MAMÁ,” at the University of Richmond. On top of that, Parisca is still expanding her portfolio with the intention to venture into clothing. As for upcoming exhibitions at Second Street Gallery, two new artists are arriving in early February. 

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