Mano-Made: New Expression in Craft by Latino Artists Consuelo Jimenez Underwood

Mano-Made: New Expression in Craft by Latino Artists is a trio of solo exhibitions by Mexican-Californian craft pioneers curated by Emily Zaiden, Craft in America Center Director. This exhibition catalog focuses on the work of fiber artist Consuelo Jimenez Underwood.

Mano-Made: New Expression in Craft by Latino Artists is a trio of solo exhibitions by Mexican-Californian craft pioneers curated by Emily Zaiden, Craft in America Center Director. This exhibition catalog focuses on the work of fiber artist Consuelo Jimenez Underwood.


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December 2, 2017 – January 20, 2018

Craft in America Center

Los Angeles, CA

The third in a trio of solo exhibitions by Mexican-Californian craft pioneers

Curated by Emily Zaiden

Ghost Flowers from

Undocumented Border

Tracks detail, 2017

ISBN # 978-1-5323-5108-2

© 2017 Craft in America

Printed in Los Angeles, CA

Designed by Stacie Martinez

Printed by Typecraft, Inc. in Los Angeles, CA

This catalog was published in conjunction with the exhibition:

Mano-Made: New Expression in Craft by Latino Artists

Craft in America Center

Los Angeles, CA

August 26, 2017 - January 20, 2018

Curated by Emily Zaiden

Mano-Made: New Expression in Craft by Latino Artists is part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a

far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles,

taking place from September 2017 through January 2018 at more than 70 cultural institutions across

Southern California. Pacific Standard Time is an initiative of the Getty. The presenting sponsor is

Bank of America.













Carol Sauvion | Executive Director | Craft in America

I first became aware of Consuelo Jimenez

Underwood in 2004 when I stood in front of her

Virgen de los Caminos quilt at the Renwick

Gallery in Washington, D.C. I knew immediately

that I wanted to include Underwood in the Craft

in America documentary series which we produce

for PBS. When I met Underwood and

visited her studio in Gualala, California when

filming our THREADS episode in 2012, I realized

that her use of craft to express her ideas

about identity, the border, and human rights is

the crux of her artistic practice.

Where did Consuelo Jimenez Underwood’s love

of the handmade come from? Her father, a

bracero (a Mexican laborer allowed into the U.S.

as a seasonal agricultural worker), was also a

weaver who carried the knowledge of traditional

weaving techniques learned in his homeland. He

passed that knowledge and his manual dexterity

to Underwood, who grew up in harsh circumstances

but understood the importance of

finding her place in the world, even as a young

child. Underwood set her sights on a life of

independence, quite a goal for a child whose first

work experience took place at age five in the

fields of Central California.

Underwood learned the basics of weaving from

her father and needlework from her mother. The

handwork skills she acquired as a young person

became the vehicle for both her career in the arts

Father, Son and the Holy Rebozo detail, 2017

and her self-expression. Her work in fiber began

with embroidered blue jeans for her husband,

Marcos Underwood, who has always been the

champion of her art practice. Her work continued

with the intricate tapestries made when she began

her formal studies in fiber. It includes the quilt

she embroidered of the Virgen de Guadalupe and

her series of rebozos dedicated to her heroes. It

now involves the Borderlines installations she is

constructing in museums throughout the United

States. She continues to use her craft skills to

manifest her artistic exploration of place, politics,

and material culture.

Underwood’s artistic practice begins with the

crafts. At the risk of being identified with domestic

and amateur practices, Underwood has not

abandoned skills that might conjure up negative

connotations of the “handmade.” It is part of her

search for meaning through handwork, using

fiber to craft pieces that express her thoughts

about the human condition. These components

of her practice: craft and content, are inseparable.

We at Craft in America are especially proud to

have a Borderlines mural in Underwood’s exhibition

at the Craft in America Center, part of our

Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA Mano-Made

exhibition. A joint outreach project, the mural

includes the work of students from Fairfax Magnet

Center for Visual Arts and William Jefferson Clinton

Middle School. We are grateful to Underwood

for her work with our students and for touching

our lives with her art.







Emily Zaiden | Director & Curator | Craft in America Center

Quatlique-landia detail, 2017


Mano-Made: New Expression in Craft by Latino

Artists is a trio of subsequent solo exhibitions

by three preeminent Mexican-Californian artists:

Jaime Guerrero, Gerardo Monterrubio, and

Consuelo Jimenez Underwood. Each artist employs

unprecedented formal approaches to material

and asserts conceptual perspectives that have

otherwise been excluded from the canon of the

contemporary art world. With prowess, they all

push the potential of their chosen media to new

heights of expression.

These three individual artists are unified by their

desire to communicate ideas and stories through

their works. For each artist, personal identity and

cultural heritage play a strong part in the narratives

that they touch upon in the art. Each uses craft

to articulate messages about American and

Chicano culture, personal experiences, Latino

and bicultural identity, and the ever-mutating sociopolitical

tensions that exist in California and the

United States as a whole. The significance of the

object as artifact and the role of the artist in

sculpting this legacy, is a fundamental pursuit

to all three.

In planning these three exhibitions, it was evident

from the outset that each artist would generate

powerful and timely elucidations, but their commentary

became even more pertinent over the past

year and a half as the global political climate

shifted. Each artist tackles the fiber of monumental

social struggles through their work, yet they scale

their approach to the intimacy of the gallery space.

The Craft in America Center, as an alternative art

space in the heart of Los Angeles, served as a

laboratory for their exploration and expression.

For Los Angeles native Guerrero, whose show

is the first in the series, reverence for the figurative

form, and the spiritual and metaphorical potential

of glass to represent a culture at any given time,

are pathways for investigation. Jaime is one of

the few and first artists in the world to hot sculpt

life-size figures in glass. For this installation of

his work, he created his most compositionally

ambitious group of figures yet. The inherent

nature of glass in its duality of strength, yet fragility,

mirrors the nature of the human body and gives

his work added impact.

He takes glass into untapped realms with his

remarkable ability to imbue his medium with

palpable emotion and spirit. Occasionally, the

end result is a lighthearted romp in street culture.

However, in recent work, as exemplified by this

installation, Guerrero wades deep into the

waters of postcolonialism to confront paradigms

of bicultural identity.

Monterrubio’s intense exploration of the ceramic

vessel and its trajectory of serving as a canvas

for transporting cultural narrative is a driving

theme in his work. Located between muralism

and street art, two realms of the art world that

have been linked with Chicano art, his approach

to imagery on porcelain taps into pan-global

traditions that span all of cultural history. Like

Guerrero, who is inventing relics for the contemporary

world and bringing to these the voices


of those who are normally muted or silenced,

Monterrubio’s brush records glimpses of life in

urban Latino culture with the same desire to document

modern society for the sake of posterity.

Recently known for her series of large-scale

depictions of geographic borderlines, Underwood

instills new meaning into the cartological representation

of various border states and American

cities. Incorporating various fiber materials, found

objects, wire, and nails, she creates powerful

works of dynamic beauty that spark discussion

about the boundaries that define place and

identity. Underwood’s art consistently reflects her

personal tricultural perspective and fundamental

belief in the interconnectedness of societies.

Beyond the identifiable cultural implications, she

is compelled to shed light on the detrimental

impact of the border wall on surrounding animal

and plant life. For Underwood, our imprint on the

natural environment is the most significant

artifact that modern society will leave behind.

Working in glass, clay, and fiber, these three

pioneers are using traditional, age-old materials

in visionary ways to voice the conflicts and

uncertainty that are at the forefront of American

culture in this unpredictable time.








Emily Zaiden

Rarely does an artist’s chosen media

and artwork embody her individual

essence as universally as in the case

of Consuelo Jimenez Underwood. Lines

are the root of her creative practice –

physically, representationally, conceptually,

and metaphorically. The basic unit of

her artistic process begins and ends

with the line, whether a piece is constructed

by weaving or sewing in thread

or barbed wire, or through paint, pastel,

caution tape, and even the removal of

painter’s tape. As a child, she first

became fascinated with art by drawing

with lines of embroidery thread. In weaving,

each piece is structured on a foundation

of lines and it can only grow through the

addition of threads added line by line.

This generative process via lines reflects

her central concern with the border lines

that exist between cultures and places,

past and present, and the spiritual and

the mundane. Lineage is another key

guiding principle in her overall outlook.

By no small coincidence, she charted a

deliberately linear path for herself to

becoming a mother, teacher, and artist.

Inside the Rain Rebozo, 2017

Woven wire, linen and wool thread

50”h x 20”w

Underwood’s earliest memories are tied

to cloth. As a child, she dreamed of

weaving rebozos (shawls) like those she

saw wrapped around the arms and over

the heads of indigenous women at the

Mexicali-Calexico border, where her family






Mother Rain Rebozo

detail, 2017

lived. Their colorful, patterned textiles

were what drew her attention amidst the

frenzy of people, unfolding drama, and

constant action. Many of the women

wearing these shawls were beggars.

Their handmade rebozos were old and

ragged but, to her, they were beautiful and

dignified — symbols of their indigenous

identity. She knew this was also her

identity, in part. She saw the fringy, frayed

ends of their skirts and imagined the

places they had seen.

As a young girl, Underwood learned to

embroider from her mother, and she

loved watching her father weave on a

frame loom. She was an avid reader

especially of non-fiction, thanks in part

to a book mobile that came to the fields

where she worked alongside her parents,

who were migrant workers. They lived in

both Calexico and Mexicali, where her

mother owned houses in both places,

and they would shuttle back and forth

between the two cities and wherever

they could find work.

When she was fourteen, she met a boy

at a dance who would become her

husband and they married four years

later at the age of eighteen. The couple

left the Imperial Valley and had two

children. With a family of her own to care

for, she decided to formulate a ten-yearplan

for the next decade of her life. Once

her children were almost teenagers and

her husband had finished his doctorate,

it was Underwood’s turn to go back to

school. She opted for art over religious

studies because she knew she could

challenge religious patriarchies through

her work as an artist.

She enrolled at San Diego State University

and learned to weave while studying

painting. Finally, she saw her chance to

make a rebozo of her own. Torn between

painting and fiber, while sitting at a loom

in the studio one day, she determined

that paint was not what spoke to her as

much as the canvas itself. Despite the

hierarchies between craft and art at that

time, fiber was her calling. She dove into

the field — learning everything she could

about spinning, making thread, natural

dyes, and a variety of techniques.

At San Diego State University, she attained

a master's in art and with guidance from

the respected head of the textile program,

Joan Austin. Austin came to the school

from Cranbrook and was steeped in

the Bauhaus approach to textiles. With

a strict emphasis on technique, form,

and respect for materials, she taught

Underwood process, traditions, and to

skillfully execute tight, perfect weavings.

Austin took Underwood under her wing,

leading her all over San Diego to immerse

her in the art world. Her critical piece of

advice was that Underwood find her

distinct voice.

Underwood decided that her weavings

were going to be tough — not just

aesthetically beautiful things. With skills

and a solid grounding for her artistic

practice, she went on for her MFA to

San Jose State University. While there,

she was forced to shift gears as content

became paramount to form. She learned

how to express herself as an artist and

how to use materials to help her in her

expression. Articulating the meaning

behind the work came naturally.

As the lone fiber student in the program,

she was surrounded by painters and

mixed media artists who questioned her

focused passion for the traditional

medium. She saw it as a realm that

could become her own. They questioned







her obsession with weaving and her

response was, “Would you have told

Van Gogh you're getting too obsessed

with painting, try weaving?”

Shortly after finishing her MFA, she was

hired to helm the Fiber/Textile program

at the school in 1989. In accordance

with the decades plan she had plotted

for her life as a young girl in the farm

fields, she landed a tenure-track position

at San Jose State University, where she

continued to teach for the following

twenty years. Everyone who entered the

fiber studios under her watch would leave

empowered with “thread knowledge” to

be able to expand the potential of fiber

as an artistic media.

Underwood started making burial shrouds

dedicated to her heroes in the late

1980s – initiated with one for Joan of

Arc, whose story had given her hope

when she read it as a nine-year-old. These

woven wraps were related in form and

function to the rebozos she had always

admired. She wove commemorations of

individuals who were willing to die for

their beliefs, and whose strength and

courage deserved to be honored and

protected for posterity. Ten years after

weaving the hero shrouds, she created

her first true rebozo, inspired by the idea

of an indigenous woman who must use

safety pins to complete the piece

because she has no time to sew. She

reinvigorated this ancient woven textile

tradition as a format for expressing

modern concerns and conflicts. Today,

she creates two rebozos per year

through her labor-intensive process.

In her tongue-in-cheek Father, Son, and

the Holy Rebozo, she depicts what she

considers to be the "Holy Trinity of

border region headgear": the sombrero

or cowboy hat, the baseball cap, and

the rebozo, which is positioned below

the other two. Underwood notes how

the two hats serve as symbols of masculinity

and are worn on both sides of the

U.S.-Mexico border without distinction.

The authoritative sombrero at the top, in

the northernmost position, is intended to

represent the father. The baseball cap

below, a newer form of headwear, is south

of the cowboy hat, and it represents the

son. Underwood overlaid the line of the

U.S.-Mexico border in copper and silver

wire with metallic threads on top of each

of the two segments to suggest the

question: who wears what, and where?

Both hats are now interchangeable and

ubiquitous, regardless of the nationality

or citizenship of the wearer. The absurdity

of making these distinctions has undoubtedly

larger implications and Underwood

explores this theme throughout her work.

In this piece, three manifestations of

gender and cultural identity are placed

in juxtaposition. In addition to noting how

contemporary clothing and popular culture

migrate freely over borders, the piece

touches on the issue of how women fit into

the trinity of society, politics, and religion.

As a child learning about Christianity,

Underwood questioned the exclusion of

women from the Trinity. Fringe in the lower

third portion of this piece represents how

women are beneath everything and often

pushed to the bottom. Simultaneously,

the piece is indicative of how, as Chicana

art theorist Laura E. Pérez describes,

Underwood has consistently undermined

Father, Son, and the Holy

Rebozo, 2017

Woven wire, linen, metallic

and cotton thread

40”h x 19”w




“contemporary gendered and racialized

distinctions between art and craft that

demote weaving to a ‘feminine’ or ‘thirdworld’

artistically undeveloped ‘craft.’” 1

Triality pervades Underwood’s work as

a reflection of her beliefs and her ancestry.

Her approach to her work involves

equally the hand, mind, and spirit. Identifying

as a Californian Chicana of Mexican

and Huichol descent, she has always

drifted between the margins of three

cultures. Through her father, she inherited

her connections to indigenous and

Mexican culture, her mother was a bridge

to her Mexican-American identity, and

Underwood absorbed these histories

while growing up straddling the border.

Underwood came to understand the

border as a young child of a bracero.

Some of her earliest memories as a

three-year-old involved smuggling her

father across the border under her feet

in the family car once the bracero program

was terminated. The trauma of witnessing

officials violently taking him away when he

was discovered was something that

never left her. He played a game of cat

and mouse with the government for years

until he finally received a green card.



Laura E. Pérez, Chicana

Art: The Politics of

Spiritual and Aesthetic

Altarities. Durham, NC:

Duke University Press,

2007, p . 163



The triality of nations is further manifested

in Quatlique-landia, as the ghostly image

of Aztec goddess, Coatlicue, seeps

through this stitched and embroidered

U.S. flag, which was formed over a nylon

Mexican flag. Underwood has worked

on merging the flags of the U.S. and

Mexico formally, structurally, and thematically

in her work since the early 1990s.

Through the zig-zagging mayhem of

colored and metallic threads, Coatlicue’s

ugly, powerful face and skirt of serpents

imbue the striped U.S. flag with her

spirit. She will not be erased nor limited


Quatlique-landia, 2017

Nylon Mexican flag, cotton and

metallic thread, cotton stuffing

30”h x 17.5”w






by arbitrary political boundaries. Her

pregnant, protruding belly holds both the

eagle and the snake of the Mexican flag.


Beverly Gordon, Textiles:

the Whole Story, Uses,

Meanings, Significance.

New York, NY : Thames &

Hudson, 2011, p. 279

Underwood’s art exemplifies what textile

scholar Beverly Gordon describes as

the “holistic consideration of the symbolic

and literal importance of cloth in human

life.” 2 She has created other rebozos to

signify a reconnection with the spirits of

the land and the elements – envisioning

them as offerings to spirits that cannot

be seen but can only be felt. After

weaving a series of rebozos dedicated

to Mother Earth, she decided in 2016 a

rain rebozo was long overdue. Mother

Rain Rebozo – woven in linen, metallic,

silk, and wool thread – was initiated as a

rain dance or prayer to encourage an end

to the California drought. This masterful

piece subtly captures the shimmer of

falling raindrops over arid earth. When

she started the weaving and the rains

finally came, her artistic meditation

was actualized.


Mother Rain Rebozo, 2017

Woven linen, metallic, silk and

wool thread

67.5”h x 14.5”w

Mother Rain Rebozo detail, 2017


The resist-dyed ikat warp anchors a

herringbone pattern of gradations of blue.

At the bottom of the piece, the defining

fringe of a typical rebozo is alluded to as

a woven implication. Underwood conceived

of the piece as a woven portrait

of the rain serpent mother. An indicative

demonstration of how Underwood plays

with the balance between tightness and

looseness in her work, she left the ends

free and unbounded by the limitations

of perfection. Incorporating threads of

varying thicknesses, she evokes the

elusive and fluid quality of water with

specks of color from the finest of threads.

“We can’t even see [water]

sometimes. It’s a mist as it

falls until it collects on the

windshield. When it’s in space,





you can’t see it, like these

threads. But after they build

up, you see it.”

Once the rains finally began, Underwood

created a piece to capture the wonder of

color that appears when rain falls. Inside

the Rain Rebozo is woven and embroidered

on a warp of fine blue wire with

the spectrum of color that appears as

the sun hits each unique rain drop. The

top of the piece is what Underwood calls

“the cloud kitchen where rain begins.”

The eyes, nose, and fangs of the mythical

rain serpent peak through. Individual

drops of rain fall towards the rolling

Californian landscape at the bottom.

Strips of a printed commercial fabric

separate the fine wire threads of the

fringe and serve as reminders of the

mundane acts that fill our days and lives.

This simple fabric reflects Underwood’s

fundamental belief that art can bring

the mystical into the mundane:

“I love bringing the lowest into

the highest realm.”

The driving notion that our society is no

longer living in spirit, and that we are

consumed strictly by the mundane, compels

Underwood to create works like

these to remind people that there is

something much bigger and outside of

ourselves. Underwood acknowledges the

challenges in reaching people with this

realm of subject matter in this day and age.

Nonetheless, she encourages us to question

how much of the everyday we can

put aside to instead look at larger issues.

Wire, as employed in this piece and in

most of her work, has been a signature

element in Underwood’s art since her

graduate studies days at San Jose State

University. The untapped potential of the


Inside the Rain Rebozo detail, 2017

Inside the Rain Rebozo detail, 2017


material carried her work into a new

level. The nature and properties of wire

as a strong, quotidian, and industrial

material offered both physical and

conceptual depth. She admired its solid

presence as a striking, reflective, and

unexpected contrast to more traditional

thread materials. It instilled aspects of

her own character into the work. Her

ability to create fiber forms that contain

a blend of enticing softness and inner

strength has set her work apart.

“The difference in wire weaving

is that it's like one of those

kids that you tell it to go there

and it goes over here. Whereas

with the silk, it will do what it

wants you to do and the cotton,

it's very predictable. The wire,

you've got to keep your eye

on it because it's kind of naughty.

It kind of has its own mind,

so I can deal with that. I was

one of those kids... I tend to

use [materials] to my advantage.”

Her frequent and pioneering incorporation

of barbed wire takes her material innovation

even further. To Underwood, barbed

wire is a weapon of natural devastation

due to its long standing history of being

used to impose barriers on open lands:

“The barbed wire is one of those

inventions of the colonists

here in America...to keep the

buffalo out, the cattle in... But

it was used to divide up land

and we use it now for fences.

As a child, when we had to

cross that border with my dad,

the border was a cyclone fence



with barbed wire around it. I

always felt that was such a

horrible, ugly mark to have

between these two towns.”

In her lacey, barbed-wire Basket from

Undocumented Tortilla Happening, she

intricately formed a traditional yet oversized

basket for tortillas from this visceral

material. The basket was the anchoring

element within an installation in 2009

that provided commentary on the state

of immigration policy. It was shaped with

the memory of her father being caught

and detained repeatedly by immigration

raids as she was growing up and the

impact of living in constant fear, poverty,

and instability. In her scene-setting

narrative for the piece:

Basket from Undocumented Tortilla Happening detail, 2009

“Imagine the wee hours of the

night, in a kitchen, in a home,

where tortillas have Spirit!

There is a loud noise, OPEN

UP!! YIKES!!! IT’S ICE!!!! The

Undocumented Tortilla Basket

remains calm and stoic. The

tortillas are super startled,

flying right off the tabletop!

It’s the migra!!!”

The tortilla has been the basis of the diet

of cultures across the Americas for

centuries. Underwood interprets its

circular shape as symbolizing a halo of

spirituality, which is echoed in the shape

of the basket. Combining barbed wire

with regular wire, she built the walls of

the basket in a pattern that mirrors

typical industrial fencing.

Around the same time that she was

constructing the walls of an enlarged

basket, she decided to create the first in

Basket from Undocumented

Tortilla Happening, 2009

Barbed wire

9”h x 29”dia






what would become an ongoing series

of large-scale wall installations that

depict the border wall. In contrast to her

intimate rebozos, Underwood made the

decision to "go big" with the border wall

installations, a message that is intended

to overwhelm and overtake the viewer

with beauty and urgency.

“There is an alarm system

going off in the borderlands

and everywhere else in the

world. Borders are changing

the earth’s physical environment

in a negative direction. I

feel no one can hear it. Maybe

if I can show it, reveal it, travel

the issue around…”

Underwood easily traces the line of the

U.S.-Mexico border freehand at this

point in her career, having depicted that

politically-charged boundary for years

in various formats throughout her work.

After being raised in the shadow of

its looming presence, she knows the

invisible line that crosses North America

by heart. This line is the beginning and

impetus of her Borderlines, which were

initiated with a piece entitled, Border

X-ings that she made for a group show

in 2009 at the Euphrat Museum of Art in

Cupertino, California. At that time, U.S.

Customs and Border Protection reported

that more than 580 miles of barriers

existed between the U.S. and Mexico.

Today, there are roughly 700 miles of

erected barriers on the nearly 2000-mile

distance between the two countries and

that number is slated to change potentially

with the current political administration.

With parallel origins in mural traditions

and graffiti, each wall evolves from a thin

pencil line that Underwood draws and

Inside the Rain Rebozo detail, 2017

Undocumented Border Tracks

detail, 2017

covers in tape before adding a scrawling,

frenetic intermeshing of paint and pastel.

These walls are the result of Underwood’s

approach to artistic mark making. The

border itself is, in her eyes, one of the

strongest acts of mark making that our

society has generated.

Each border wall installation emerges

through a progressive layering of painted,

drawn, and tethered lines. At the core of

the image, the border cavity itself, is formed

through subtraction. Towards the end of

the installation process, Underwood

removes the initial strips of tape to echo

the void that the actual wall imprints on

the land and the dead zone that surrounds

the immediate vicinity. Underwood’s

central line remains bare amidst a convulsion

of wiry scribbles and radiant streaks

of color symbolizing people traveling to

and from each side of the border.

These enveloping installations spark

discussion about the contested boundaries

that define place and identity. Beyond

addressing the social impact of the border,

giant cut and embellished fabric “spirit”

flowers float over the landscape. These

are the materialization of Underwood’s

notion of “undocumented flowers,” which

are reminders of the beauty and autonomy

of nature, which knows no boundaries.

Her lyrical reading of these flowers is a

response to the ecological impact of the

border on all living creatures.

Flowers fell into Underwood’s vocabulary

once her granddaughter was born and

was named Xochil, which means flower

in Nahuatl. At that point, she suddenly

looked at the native flowers and weeds

that grow along this threatened zone

differently. She started representing the

four “cousin” border state flowers: yucca,

Texas bluebonnet, saguaro, and the poppy




Border Tracks,


Paper, fabric,

safety pins,

beads, wire and

found materials



Power Wands from Undocumented

Border Tracks, 2017

Tree branches, fabric, safety pins,

beads, wire, Dura-lar and found


in her work to indicate how the natural

world is impacted by this divisive process.

By depicting these flowers, she instills

new meaning into the phrase “native

species.” They are now key elements

that appear throughout her installations.

“These wild flowers have become

state flowers, but they

don't have documentation.

Even worse, by that wall, the

life force that's in the land

that sustains them is being

decimated. There's no life;

there’s nothing growing up to

three to five miles on each

side of that wall. So, we're not

just invading their territory.

These are indigenous flowers

of America, but we're also

decimating their homeland.”

Underwood’s most recent installation,

Undocumented Border Tracks, reflects

her core wish for protecting the fundamental

ties between landscapes, cultures,

and animals, as well. In addition to the

scattered flowers, Underwood incorporates

stenciled paw and hoof prints of

various animals that make it to the border,

only to end there. Environmentalists have

expressed increased concern about

butterfly migration corridors and the future

of species of regional wildcats: the ocelot,

the jaguarundi, and the jaguar, among

other animals. Studies and reports have

asserted that the existing fence already

endangered species and harmed

fragile ecosystems.

The palette for each incarnation of these

walls links the installation to the location

where it is shown. Underwood was

inspired by the colors of Los Angeles

with Undocumented Border Tracks.

Emanating out of the whiteness of the

border are the colors of her memories

of living in a city on the edge of the

Pacific that glows at night with neon

streams of headlights and street signs.

The blue ocean waves, the beaches of

Malibu and the purple surrounding

mountains provide the initial perimeter,

which bleed into the smoggy haze of

the sprawling megalopolis. Darkness

encroaches on the outer edges of the

border wall – alluding to the stories of

crossing through at night.

This is the tenth in her series of

Borderlines. She has created a new

format for site-specific mural-based

work by incorporating various fiber and

found materials that bring dimensionality

to the piece. Integrating safety pins,

plastic beaded necklaces, torn strips of

fabric, and extra large nails, she references

the dreams and dangers that the

border signifies.

“I love the safety pin, because

it's a very humble object in

our society, but yet it has this

power to connect. I always

felt that the most important

things are overlooked in our

society and culture. I’m here

to bring them to the forefront.”

Dramatic steel nails the size of stakes

represent where the main border

crossings were located in 2009 when




she started the installations. Since then,

there are many additional crossings.

Labels for each of the border cities

dangle from safety pins on these exaggerated

nails. These are the same tags

she has used since her first wall was

installed. The machine-stitched lettering

is printed on photos taken of identical

products found on shelves in grocery

stores located on both sides of the border.

Nails north of the border are painted

gold whereas the nails below the border

are silver, symbolizing the historic U.S.

gold standard and the prolific production

of silver in Mexico. A web of caution tape,

metallic threads, and leather barbed

wire links the nails to one another. These

spikes are a reference to crucifixion, as

Underwood views the border fence as

being nailed onto Mother Earth with the

same brutality.

Underwood’s dedication to nature via

her art reflects a yearning for spiritual

connection and also her personal

bittersweet history, having spent her

childhood years on farms working the

land alongside her family. She would

arrive at school late and leave early to

help her parents. Those circumstances

made her decide as a nine-year-old that

she was going to get out of the fields

and live her life differently once she was

old enough. At such a young age, she

had already started thinking about

getting from point A to point B, which in

some ways was a reflection of how she

got through picking fruit and doing other

manual labor. It was a process of physically

moving from one line to the next

within a certain time limitation. This clear

goal of linear progress, both in her life

and the creation of each work, characterizes

her to the core. She built herself

a lifeline out of the challenges.

Power Wands from Undocumented

Border Tracks, 2017

Tree branches, fabric, safety pins,

beads, wire, Dura-Lar and found







Having found her own pathway in art,

experiences from her early life gave her

self-knowledge and empathy to motivate

emerging art students for decades. She

retired from San Jose State University in

2009 to focus strictly on her art creation,

yet she remains a teacher by identity and

soul. For Undocumented Border Tracks,

she invited students from Fairfax Magnet

Center for Visual Arts and William Jefferson

Clinton Middle School to participate in

workshops to generate and install, respectively,

Power Wands and Ghost Flowers

that are interspersed across the wall.

Underwood guided them to approach

their additions to the wall as expressions

of their own aspirations, pride, and


The students’ flowers and wands serve to

bless the land and to bring to it optimism

and regeneration, as these young people

carry the promise of the future in their

own hands. High school students were

taught to honor the strength of their

individual branches and to make wands

imbued with the power of the mind and

heart. Each wand, made from a collected

tree branch, has found elements that

dangle from safety pins and wire as

personal amulets. Additionally, transparent

images of loved ones who traversed

borders were included to inspire these

young artists as they move forward.

Student hanging Ghost Flowers in Undocumented

Border Tracks installation

ous hope that survives, despite the odds.

Underwood’s Undocumented Border

Tracks is simultaneously an altar that

commemorates freedom and the lives

of all kinds of creatures that have been

lost as a result of this physical and

political barrier. The history of the border

wall is brief when compared with the

amount of time that the natural environment

existed prior to this man-made

intervention. In a relatively small span of

years, such damage has been caused.

All that remains is a short moment of

time to prevent further destruction from

taking place on this land. Her wall is a

temporal offering. It is constructed and

in the end, removed. The larger than life

piece is ephemeral but Underwood will

undoubtedly re-conceive of it for other

venues in new places and it will continue,

as she charts her way along her line.

“The last one is always my

favorite and the idea that’s

not made yet is the coolest.”

Underwood encouraged the middle

school students to find their inner beauty

and individuality as they shaped their

colorless flowers with beads, safety pins,

and thread. Her goal was to anchor these

young people in positivity and activity so

that they can become lifelines towards

change. Her intent is for these walls to

motivate our community to stand up for

the invisible and the voiceless, the flora and

fauna. To that end, children are the tenu-

Quatlique-landia detail, 2017







Crossing borders and negotiating between

three perspectives has always

been a fundamental aspect of my persona

and the basis of my creative process.

Over thirty years ago, when “craft vs. art”

was the most divisive issue in the arts, I

discovered and established my “authentic

artistic voice,” refocused my artistic

studies from the paintbrush and pigments

to “needle and thread.” Empowered

by the voices of my indigenous

maternal ancestors, I began to cross the

intellectual borders that separated the

hand and the mind(craft), from the spirit

(fine art).

Inside the Rain Rebozo detail, 2017

My work is a reflection of personal border

experiences: the interconnectedness of

societies, insisting on beauty in struggle,

and celebrating the notion of "seeing"

this world through my tri-cultural lens.

Engaging materials, which reflect a

contemporary hyper-modern sensitivity,

are interwoven to create large-scale fiber

art that is inspired in equal measures by

land, politics and Spirit.

The artwork becomes an external validation

of ancestral memory and personal

quest. Beauty, grace, and flowers soothe

the quiet rage that has permeated the

Americas for more than five hundred

years. Thus, when I weave, sew, or

embellish, the anonymous viejitas (hags)

seem to express their encouragement

and support of my creations.

Father, Son, and

the Holy Rebozo

detail, 2017







Inside the Rain Rebozo detail, 2017

1949 – Born in Sacramento, CA


1987 – MFA, San Jose State University, San Jose, CA

1985 – MA, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA

1981 – BA, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA


1989-2009 – Assistant Professor of Art, Associate

Professor of Art, Professor, Head of Fiber/Textile Area,

School of Art and Design, San Jose State University,

San Jose, CA

2007 – Adjunct Professor, California College of the Arts,

Berkeley, CA, Spring Term


2017 – Mano-Made: New Expression in Craft by

Latino Artists, Consuelo Jimenez Underwood, solo

exhibition, Craft in America Center, Los Angeles, CA,

in partnership with Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA

2017 – Design on the Border: Contemporary Design

in Mexico and Mexican America, Craft and Folk Art

Museum, Los Angeles, CA, in partnership with Pacific

Standard Time: LA/LA

2017 – Shelter: Crafting a Safe Home, Contemporary

Craft, Pittsburgh, PA

2017 – Looming Spaces, Huntington Beach Art Center,

Huntington Beach, CA

2016 – Stories of Migration: Contemporary Artists

Interpret Diaspora, The Textile Museum, George

Washington University, Washington, DC

2015 – California Masters: State of the Arts, Craft in

America Center, Los Angeles, CA

2015 – Borderlines: The Art of Consuelo Jimenez

Underwood, solo exhibition, ArtRage Gallery,

Syracuse, NY

2015 – Mothers: The Act of Seeing, solo exhibition,

Nevada Museum Of Art, Reno, NV

2012 – Art In Embassies, U.S. Department of State,

Jerusalem, Israel

2012 – Looming Election, Woven Works, Craft in

America Center, Los Angeles, CA

2011 – Undocumented Borderlands, solo exhibition,

Conley Art Gallery, California State University, Fresno,

Fresno, CA

2009 – Chicano/a Biennnial, MACLA/Movimiento de

Arte y Cultura Latino Americana, San Jose, CA

2009 – Rastros y Crónicas: Women of Juarez, National

Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, IL

2006 – Tortillas, Chiles, and Other Border Things, solo

exhibition, MACLA/Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino

Americana, San Jose, CA

2006 – Rooted in Tradition, National Museum of Mexican

Art, Chicago, IL

2005 – Tortilla Meets Tortilla Wall, InSite_05, Border

State Park, Performance at U.S./Mexico Border

2005 – Cheongju International Craft Biennale, Cheong

Ju Craft Center, Korea

2005 – Mundo, Women’s Museum, Dallas, TX

2001 – Defining Craft 1: Collecting for the New

Millennium, Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NY

(Traveling Exhibition 2001-2005)

2000 – The Renwick Invitational: Five Women in Craft,

National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution,

Washington, DC

1997 – The Renwick at 25, Smithsonian American Art

Museum, Washington, DC

1995 – Choices! Recent Acquisitions, California College

of the Arts, Oakland, CA

1994 – Rethinking La Malinche, Mexic-Arte Museum,

Austin, TX

1991 – Contemporary Visions of The Virgen de Guadalupe,

Downey Museum of Art, Downey, CA

1991 – Connections in Chicano and Latino Art, Yerba

Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA


Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NY

National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque, NM

National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, IL

Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA

Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum,

Washington, DC


2016 – Catherine Cucinella, Border Crossings: A

Bedford Spotlight Reader (Newton Highlands, MA:

Bedford/St. Martin's-Macmillan Education, 2016).

2011 – C. Alejandra Elenes, Transforming Borders:

Chicana/o Popular Culture and Pedagogy (Lexington

Books, 2011).

2009 – Vicki Halper and Diane Douglas, Editors,

Choosing Craft: The Artist's Viewpoint, (Chapel Hill:

University of North Carolina Press, 2009).

2007 – Laura E. Pérez, Chicana Art: The Politics of

Spiritual and Aesthetic Altarities (Durham, NC: Duke

University Press, 2007).

2001 – Jonathan Yorba, Arte Latino: Treasures from

the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Exhibition

Catalog (Co-published with Watson-Guptill Publications,


2015 – California Handmade: State of the Arts,

Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts, Alta Loma, CA

2013 – Welcome to Flowerlandia, solo exhibition,

Triton Museum of Art, Santa Clara, CA






Father, Son, and the Holy Rebozo, 2017

Woven wire, linen, metallic and cotton thread

40”h x 19”w

Inside the Rain Rebozo, 2017

Woven wire, linen and wool thread

50”h x 20”w

Mother Rain Rebozo, 2017

Woven linen, metallic, silk and wool thread

67.5”h x 14.5”w

Quatlique-landia, 2017

Nylon Mexican flag, cotton and metallic thread, cotton stuffing

30”h 17.5”w

Basket from Undocumented Tortilla Happening, 2009

Barbed wire

9”h x 29”dia

Undocumented Border Tracks, 2017

Paint, pastel, nails, leather barbed wire, caution tape, thread, found beaded necklaces,

painted fabric, wood branches, safety pins, wire, beads and mixed media materials.

Wall 1: 12’h x 21’w

Wall 2: 7’h x 9’w

Ghost Flowers from Undocumented Border Tracks, 2017

Paper, fabric, safety pins, beads, wire and found materials

Created by Wiliam Jefferson Clinton Middle School Students:

Jonathan Almeida, Ussiel Burgara, Deija Dukes, Consuelo Estrada,

Joseph Gonzalez, Chrystina Gutierrez, Alexi Hernandez,

Ruth Navarro, Alexander Orozco, Patricio Perez,

Lea Pleitez, Jose Roman, Areli Rosado,

Irving Toxtle, Stephanie Vasquez, Rocio Zapata

Power Wands from Undocumented Border Tracks, 2017

Tree branches, fabric, safety pins, beads, wire, Dura-Lar and found materials

Created by Fairfax Magnet Center for Visual Arts Students:

Anthony Aguilar, Karla Avalos, Millie Carillo-Reyes,

Bryan Chavez, Cyrus Khoylow, Setareh Khoylow,

Estephanie Molina, Natalie Neyman, Evelyn Vasquez,

Aysia Yang, Vania Yescas

Created with assistance from Brenda Cruz and Sheila Rodriguez

Mother Rain Rebozo

detail, 2017

Photography of exhibition artworks by Madison Metro


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