Sandra Monterroso’s Spinal Column is a sculpture made of eightyseven textile skirts, weaved with foot looms by women of Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. According to Mayan mythology, Ixchel, the Moon, was the patron of weaving and was often depicted sitting with one end of her loom tied to a tree and the other around her waist. Today, women in the highlands in Guatemala weave textiles in exactly the same manner, with a back-strap loom. Other textiles — like these skirts — are made with foot looms, which were introduced by the Spaniards shortly after the conquest. These looms were traditionally operated by men, but are now mostly used by women.
The rolled skirts in the sculpture give shape to a spine, a support column, a monument to the lives of the Mayan women of Alta Verapaz, who have supported their families through this tradition, holding the responsibility of preserving culture under a strong patriarchal system. The spinal column can be seen as a mestizo sculpture, a body laden with contradictions, made with skirts that are worn by women but are structured over a phallic vertical. It addresses identity, submission and gender empowerment, local and global narratives, colonialism and decolonizing practices. It comprises over five hundred years of history — from the conquest to the present — in linking ancient Mayan traditions to contemporary art forms, including the personal stories of each of these women.
In her work, Sandra Monterroso integrates language and traditional artisanal practices, to challenge preconceptions of indigeneity and ethnicity. A common argument is that if indigenous artists abandon tradition, they lose – and betray – their identity. This makes us question our understanding of ‘tradition’? Which cultures should be frozen in the past? Why is the burden to overlook the present only imposed upon some cultures? Something similar happens with the association of native languages with the past. The suppression of indigenous languages, of any minority language, renders the people who speak them inactive and illegitimate, it eliminates their cosmologies, their sense of self and history, it deprives them of political, social, and cultural agency. This is one of the reasons why Monterroso’s work insists in bringing tradition to the present, as she strives both for regaining recognition into the Maya Q’eqchi’ community, and asserting her identity as one that is ﬂuid and multiple.
About the artist
Monterroso is a Phd in practice candidate at the Academy of Arts Vienna. She has a Master`s Degree in Design Process, in UPAEP, Puebla, Mexico. She is undergraduate in Graphic Design in the University Rafael Landivar of Guatemala. She obtained a specialization in Peace and Development by the University Jaume I de Castellon, in Spain. She also has received workshops and courses of engraving and visual arts, in Guatemala and Mexico.
Her most reason collective exhibition is, 56 Venice Biennale Latin America – IILA Pavillon, Indigenous Voices, 2015. 12 Habana Biennal, Between the Idea and Experience, 2015. The last individual exhibition was Actions to abolish the desire, The 9.99 galery Guatemala (2014) and Cross Efects, Piegatto Art Galery, Guatemala (2012).
Among some of the prices she has recived is 2cond and 3er Prize, Juannio Subasta de Arte Latinoamericano. Guatemala, 2012, 2011. Honorable Mention XVI Biennial of Visual Art Paiz of Guatemala, 2008.