CBPA has been a home-away-from-home in Chicago for activist and papermaker Laura Anderson Barbata for a number of years, starting with her retrospective exhibition Among Tender Roots at the Center’s Gallery in 2010. Barbata, well known as a community builder, with a strong desire to build awareness and create change, helped facilitate the ongoing residency project between InterArts MFAs and Yanomami artist Sheronawe Hakihiiwe. Her most recent project, the repatriation of Julia Pastrana to Mexico, has been receiving much notice in the international media. The project had the support of the InterArts Book and Paper students and faculty from the start.
MFA Book + Paper Program Director Melissa Potter offered encouragment to Barbata when she was in the early stages of negotiationing with Oslo to obtain clearance to return Pastrana’s remains to Mexico. “Laura’s efforts for Julia deserved our support, and reflect our mission here in InterArts,” says Potter. “Early in her work petitioning the University of Oslo to return Pastrana to her homeland, I invited her to create two editions at the CBPA paper studios. One piece contained embedded hair to symbolize Pastrana (who suffered from hypertrichosis lanuguinosa with gingival hyperplasia), and the other was a “Welcome Home” banner, which we hoped would soon be used at a celebration of Julia’s return.”
Continues Potter, “We decided to make the art to symbolically welcome her regardless of the outcome, and of course educate, through distribution of the edition to museums, collectors, etc.”
The success of Barbata’s recent work has been covered in many important media outlets, including Mexico’s El Universal Nación, Indice Politico, The New York Times, and and interview with Jian Gomeshi on the CBC Radio’s popular radio program Q.
The recent ceremonies in Oslo and Mexico were also televised on El Universal TV. “The televised program is very special to me,” says Barbata, “It includes the burial, and the best part: the walk from the church to the cemetery with the band following her coffin.”
The background story on Julia Pastrana on the InterArts blog can be found here.