P·P·O·W is pleased to present La Jardinera, Astrid Terrazas’ first solo exhibition with the gallery. Taking the form of mixed media painting and ceramic sculpture, Terrazas’ illustrative, highly detailed, and symbolic practice re-writes worlds. Influenced by surrealist artists such as Remedios Varo and folk artists such as Minnie Evans, Terrazas’ paintings are filled with transient, often zoomorphic figures, idiosyncratic iconographies, and illogical narratives. With unflinching vulnerability, Terrazas merges dreamscapes, Mexican ancestral folklore, personal experiences, and unearthly transfigurations to create spaces for communal healing, protection, and metamorphosis. Featuring a new series of paintings and Terrazas’ first ever large-scale ceramic fountain, La Jardinera presents an alternative, sacred space honoring duality and upholding ideals of empathy and reciprocity.
Informed by the geography of her childhood, Terrazas contends with borders both physical and psychological. Born in Juarez, Mexico, she regularly crossed the border into El Paso, Texas to go to her favorite stores or to help family members shop for groceries. This fluid relationship was abruptly curbed when, at the age of seven, Terrazas and her parents were forced to leave Mexico and relocate to Dallas, Texas. Cut off from her extended family in Mexico, Terrazas felt rootless but never lost her sense of living in two cultures. In How many love tokens went missing in Mexico, 2022, Terrazas recalls memories of sending her uncle clothing from the United States that was unavailable in Mexico. Recently deceased, her uncle is portrayed as an angel, couched within a fantastical landscape of Juarez and a vision of her grandmother’s apartment set in front of a backdrop of mountains which are simultaneously a herd of giant cows. By sending her uncle gifts, Terrazas was able to transcend the bounds of time and space, and through the process of painting these memories, she also crosses the borders between life and death to reach him.
For Terrazas, painting is “a process of finding and burying” akin to incanting, a way to cast spells and weave new remedial narratives to transmute histories. Throughout the exhibition, Terrazas employs the symbol of a fountain to challenge the traditional power structures directing the flow of giving and restricting individual capacity for reciprocity and regeneration. Looking specifically at the Rio Grande’s natural divide between the United States and Mexico, Terrazas questions what could have been if such a waterway had been used to nurture both countries instead of sowing divisiveness. Drawing a direct parallel to this body of water, Terrazas highlights the way fountains in cities become symbols of power and access for the few through the exploitation of resources intended for all. In Fountains, can I build one, be one?, 2021, Terrazas depicts herself as a stone fountain with water flowing through her to fill an empty, dried out basin. Grappling with personal and inherited trauma, Terrazas reveals how individuals can take on the power of a fountain and become sites of radical empathy and abundant replenishment.
Translating to “gardener” or “flowerbed,” Terrazas describes the paintings in La Jardinera as seeds. Beginning as investigations into reoccurring phrases or mantras which would become lodged within Terrazas’ subconscious often coming to her in dreams, the paintings became portals populated by various guardian figures who could guide Terrazas towards healing and transformation. Just as a garden is able to grow and flourish, these paintings both nurture La Jardinera and are nurtured by the exhibition’s central ceramic fountain, La Fuente (para Sydney), 2022. A sphinx-like creature with the contemporary clothing of a young woman, the fountain’s pomegranate mouth acts as a nozzle from which water flows into a basin of hand painted, carved, and cut tiles ornamented with Terrazas’ unique cast of reoccurring hybrid characters of angels-devils and human-animals. A wishing fountain, Terrazas invites visitors to write down their wishes and throw them into the fountain. While wishes are usually kept secret, Terrazas believes it is important to make our wishes, desires, and hopes known in order for us to grow together as a community. Neither inside nor outside, good nor evil, human nor non-human, American nor Mexican, La Jardinera holds multiple truths at once, providing a framework for how individuals and society can gain the capacity to become regenerative fountains for giving.
Astrid Terrazas (b. 1996) received her BFA in Illustration from Pratt Institute in 2018 and lives and works in Queens, New York. She has exhibited work at P·P·O·W, New York, NY; Lyles & King, New York, NY; Nicodim Gallery, New York, NY; Y2K Group, New York, NY; Andrea Festa Fine Art, Rome, Italy; Marinaro, New York, NY; Fort Makers, New York, NY; Gern en Regalia, New York, NY; Front Gallery, Houston, TX; and 98 Orchard St, New York, NY; among others. Her work has recently been featured in articles in Art Maze Mag, The Art Newspaper, and The Brooklyn Rail and is currently on view in 52 Artists: A Feminist Milestone at the Aldrich Contemporary Museum of Art through January 8, 2023.