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Wednesday February 28, 2001

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Reinventing the loom

Headline Photo

By Kate VonderPorten

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Artist Arturo Alonzo Sandoval takes textile art into the new millennium

For textile artist Arturo Alonzo Sandoval, weaving is part of his personal history.

"I always call myself a weaver because that is the history of my family," Sandoval said. "In New Mexico, my family wove colonial Spanish art blankets."

But Sandoval is just as interested in the future as the past. He said he wants to take the weaving traditions of his ancestors into the new millennium by using modern materials such as battery cables and Mylar in his work.

"I wish to be an artist of my time and using contemporary materials (that) industry has created is essential to my work," he said.

The incorporation of these materials in his art, now on exhibit at the GOCAIA Gallery, 302 E. Congress St., is meant to address the wastefulness of a consumer society, especially in the United States.

"We have such a disposable society," Sandoval said. "Recycling is an important factor of my work."

Sandoval - now an art professor at the University of Kentucky -, turns a critical eye not only toward contemporary society but also works to revise American history through his textiles. In his mixed-media piece "To honor those that came before," for example, Sandoval retells the tale of Columbus' founding of America to include the perspective of the colonized people.

"In 1992, the celebration of Columbus gave me issues I wanted to create artistically. I designed this piece to correspond with the quincentennial celebration of America," Sandoval said. "I had a Catholic childhood and the Catholic church came over to America to save souls -- but I believe that gold and greed were the real reason."

In the piece, Sandoval juxtaposes images of an American flag and a Mexican flag, as well as skeletal depictions, to demonstrate the suffering of native people - the Mayan population of Mexico specifically - at the hands of their colonizers. The piece also reflects the continuing oppression of native peoples worldwide.

"(The piece) talks about (the) idea of constant war and military spending and ethnic cleansing going on currently around the world -- my work is an artistic history lesson," Sandoval said.

In addition to the political and social content of Sandoval's art, his work is deeply rooted in personal meaning.

"The symbols I use will communicate not universal truth but represent my search for truth," he said. "The artist must be satisfied first and not the art market. I make my work for myself initially and communicate ideas I want people to think about."

In the future, Sandoval hopes to create woven, three-dimensional sculptures to incite thoughtful interaction between his work and the audience.

"Originally my work was more explicit. Now it is spiritual and political," he said. "I hope to create woven vessels and objects to enhance and inspire personal meditation."

Sandoval's work is collected by the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Renwick Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His exhibition at the GOCAIA runs through Friday.