AIR Cycle 10 Artist Spotlight: Familien Iglesias, A Family Endeavor
Familien Iglesias: A Family Endeavor
By Christine Sloan Stoddard
Photo credit: Christine Sloan Stoddard ( @Christine.Stoddard )
For Familien Iglesias, art is often a family affair. Their installation MotherLove is part of Lost/Found, the culminating exhibition presented by the 10th cycle of Artists in Residence. It will be on view in the TAC Project Space at the Textile Arts Center, Brooklyn through September 24, 2019.
Sisters Lisa and Janelle began collaborating in 2005 while in graduate school at the University of Florida and Virginia Commonwealth University, respectively. They began by mailing works on paper to each other. One sister would begin a drawing and then mail it to the other sister. A drawing could be worked over several times before the sisters mutually agreed that it was completed. Some of the drawings remain in flux, even all these years later. Though Janelle and Lisa have collaborated with their mother, Bodhild, off and on for the past decade, the TAC residency is the first residency the three women have participated in together. Over the course of nine months, Bodhild and her daughters, both art professors, explored ideas related to translation, so-called women’s work, and the boundaries between fine art and handicraft.
Photo credit: TAC archives
Central to the Familen Iglesias installation MotherLove are the knitted compositions that Bodhild created in response to Janelle and Lisa’s drawings. The knittings are installed over a large-scale wooden frame, with the drawings that inspired them on the walls. At the heart of the installation is a rug that Bodhild’s mother wove in Norway. It was one of several Bodhild’s niece brought in a bale to the United States in the 1970s. But the generational interplay central to MotherLove does not end there. Viewers are invited to navigate the installation while listening an audio tour narrated by Bowie, Lisa’s 7-year-old son—MotherLove‘s “docent.” Last but not least, viewers are encouraged to take a poster. It credits all of the Kickstarter backers who made it possible for Familien Iglesias to participate in the residency.
Familien Iglesias’ notion of translation begins with the common understanding of the word: spoken language. Bodhild is the only one in the family that speaks fluent Norwegian, Spanish, and English—the languages that bind the multicultural brood. The bright-eyed matriarch was born and raised in Norway, where she began studying English before coming to the United States as an au pair. Shortly after her arrival in the 1960s, she met her future husband, whose family hailed from the Dominican Republic. Eventually, the couple married and started their family in Queens, New York. Today Bodhild lives in Hollis, Queens, but she also lived in the Dominican Republic for a dozen years when she and her husband first retired. True to the family’s multicultural roots is their name: “Familien” is Norwegian for “family”; Iglesias is the Spanish surname on the Dominican side.
When I sit with Bodhild, Lisa, and Janelle the week of the Lost/Found opening, they tell me that they hope the installation will expand the audience’s thoughts of what knitting is and can be.
“This residency helped me look at knitting in a new way,” says Bodhild. “I began with something so simple: Should you fasten all the new threads? It allowed me to get into that uncomfortable place of, ‘Oh, it’s not done. It’s not neat. It’s not perfection.’ The community [at TAC] has renewed me. I’ve grown ten years younger while here.”
Lisa and Janelle add that the installation allows viewers to see both sides of the knitted objects, giving them appreciation for the labor involved in making them. The sisters are heartened by the fact that the works permit a multiplicity of view points and can be reinstalled to adapt to different spaces. As academics, Lisa and Janelle say they are deeply aware of how institutions often separate artists and scholars from family life. For them, Familien Iglesias projects value mother’s work and caregiving as not only labor but a place for creative gestures. They say that they “celebrate complication” and “reframe [family life] as a plus.” While Janelle and Lisa maintain their own individual practices, they believe their collaborative work has enriched what they make on their own.
Photo credit: TAC Archives
Talking over and with each other in our interview, Las Hermanas agree that “textiles used to just be ‘regular women’s work.’ No matter how beautiful the object, it was never considered or valued as fine art. TAC and Familien Iglesias are part of the movement for change.”
You can learn more about Lisa and Janelle’s collaborative work as Las Hermanas Iglesias at https://www.lashermanasiglesias.com/