Sobreviviente exhibitSobreviviente

Gunaa Xoo Transforming Life

One who
1. remains alive or in existence.
2. carries on despite hardships or trauma
3. perseveres
4. remains functional or usable.


Bihl Haus Arts is pleased to present Sobreviviente: Gunaa Xoo Transforming Life, an exhibition of metaphoric new artworks, video, and installation by DEBORA KUETZPAL VASQUEZ. Gunaa Xoo means ‘strong woman’ in Zapoteco, the language of the fierce Tehuanas, women who challenge anyone who tries to dismantle their society of governance, which is one of the last enduring matriarchies in the world. Sobreviviente opens with a reception at Bihl Haus Arts on Saturday, November 19, from 6 to 9 pm, which includes an opening ceremony by Cristal Gonzalez and musical performances by Bianca Sapier and all-female Mariachi Las Alteñas.

The paintings in this exhibit—a series of portraits and compositions executed on found, discarded, or recycled materials—are visual metaphors for mujeres who have survived incest or violence at the hands of family, husbands, intimate partners, strangers, and the border. These amazing, magnificent women have come up on the other side not only to persevere but to thrive. The paintings are accompanied by Vasquez’s digitally altered video that presents five of these women–Adela Arrellano, Victoria Garcia, Andrea Figueroa, Marina Hernandez Renaud, and Hortensia Zimmermantelling their stories of survival in their own words. The artworks and video are framed within the installation of a home defined by Chicana domestic culture nuanced by life transformed. The installation divides the gallery space into four areas: outside the kitchen door and the kitchen, living room, and bedroom. In each section, artworks meant to empower mujeres consume words and wounds still emerging on the walls and furniture, familiar camouflage that ineffectively masks the consequences of violence.

Sobreviviente is a healing ritual among women who transform abusive power through this exhibit into power that will be sent out into the universe to heal even the perpetrators so that we may end the cycle of violence. Speaking the truth about our abuse in a safe space—through art, text, ritual—removes it from our bodies and restores them. The healing space, the words of the survivors, and the strength of Tehuanas will empower us, bring beauty to our lives, and assist us to overcome violence we have encountered.

Sobreviviente has been purposefully scheduled for the “holiday season,” the months of November and December when statistics show that incidents of domestic violence dramatically rise with increases in family and financial stress and alcohol abuse.

The exhibit also includes “Women as Vessels,” a series of ceramic works by other women—survivors—with whom the artist works, including the Bihl Haus Goldens (seniors enrolled in the Bihl Haus GO! Arts Program who live at Primrose Senior Apartments where Bihl Haus is located) and young women from the Corazones on Fire Project at Seton Home and Art in Action.

Sobreviviente runs through January 28. Bihl Haus Arts is open Fridays and Saturdays from 1 to 4 pm and by appointment. Bihl Haus Arts will be closed for the holidays on Dec. 24 and 29th.

Additional Related Programming
THURSDAY, DEC. 8, 2011, 7 PM: Reading & San Antonio Book Launch of blu, by playwright VIRGINIA GRISE, San Antonio native and recipient of the 2010 Pierre Cardin Award in theatre directing from the Princess Grace Foundation and the 2010 Yale Drama Series Award.

SATURDAY, JAN. 14, 2012, 2 PM: Reading by author BARBARA RENAUD GONZALEZ from her recent award-winning novel Golondrina, why did you leave me?” followed by Mujer Plática, an opportunity to share ideas and develop creative collaborations between women artists and entrepreneurs.

Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012, 2 pm Artist Plática by BARBARA KUETZPAL GONZALEZ and Closing Reception

This program, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored in part by the City of San Antonio Office of Cultural Affairs and by Primrose. The Bihl Haus GO! Arts Program is supported by the Orsinger Foundation, the WellMed Charitable Foundation, and Primrose. Special thanks to the OLLU Department of Art for allowing the Goldens access to their ceramics facilities.