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Inaugural Latine Student Exhibition announces winners

Four students were honored at the inaugural Latine Student Exhibition, on view at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) until October 13, 2023. Coordinated by rhi anderson-martinez, executive director of equity and inclusion at MIAD, the exhibition highlights and celebrates the art and design skills of MIAD’s Latine students during Hispanic Heritage Month.

“It’s really important, especially for our students, to know that we see them,” explains anderson-martinez about the importance of the exhibition. “We value all of what they bring to their art, which is culture, which is identity, which might be migration stories or generational stories. It’s a fun way to allow our students to just put something up without the constructs of doing this for an assignment. They just get to make and they just get to show.”

Two Best in Show winners received a prize of $400. Caroline Calvano ’24 won for their work “Bling Belly” and Ari Gutierrez ’24 for “Porque tú eres Mexicana.” An additional two honorable mentions were awarded to Melany Hernandez ’26 for “The Journey” and Alexa Rodriguez-Alarcon ’26 for “Anhelo el sabor de las naranjas Veracruzanas.” The exhibition also features work by CaracolSoyyo ’25, Diego Antonio Sosa ’24, Linda P. Santiago ’26, Mason Gabriel Sevilla ’25, Navi Morales ’26 and Olivia Nava ’26.

Calvano submitted two bronze sculptures. “‘Bling Belly’ is a distorted and elongated bronze cast replica of my belly, continuing my exploration of feminine bodily aesthetics,” they explain in their artist statement. “The five belly buttons are each adorned with a belly button piercing spelling out ‘bitch’, a common gendered insult … This sculpture embodies the threatening form of bitchy femininity through its bold expression of feminine sexuality and excessive use of jewelry.”

Gutierrez submitted “Porque tú eres Mexicana,” a large banner-like painting. “I wanted to capture how impactful one moment I shared with my father was and how it’s been forged into a driving tool for understanding the complexities of my Mexican-American identity,” she shares in her artist statement. “Having grown up in two different worlds, I was constantly figuring out who I wanted to be and finding a sense of belonging, sometimes meaning I would disregard one half of my identity to feel accepted … My parents, however, were always reassuring and never made me feel any less than because of my biracial identity.”

Hernandez, who won an honorable mention for their work “The Journey,” created the collage piece to symbolize their parents’ journey from Honduras and El Salvador to the United States. “Knowing my roots and where I come from has always been important to me, and this shows people that it’s a hard journey for some people … [I wanted it] to represent the places my parents have been to,” Hernandez shares in their artist statement. In addition to the images, Hernandez wrote poems and included information from interviews “to show my appreciation to my parents for the sacrifice they’ve made to get me where I am today.”

Rodriguez-Alarcon has worked on “Anhelo el sabor de las naranjas Veracruzanas” since high school. The painting depicts “two oranges, one bruised, as a representation of me and my family back home in Mexico. The stories that my mother tells me with fondness are my only connection to my culture, and I long to experience those memories, including the simple taste of an orange,” says Rodriguez-Alarcon.

The judges for the exhibition were FYE instructor Alan Peralta ’21 (NSP: Fine Arts), Chair of MIAD’s Board of Trustees DEI Committee Yvonne Brodsky, MIAD Board of Trustees DEI Committee member Steve Morales and MIAD Assistant Director of Admissions Melissa Mursch-Rodriguez. View works by all the artists in MIAD’s Community Hub in room 160 until October 13, 2023, and learn more about Equity + Inclusion at MIAD!

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