I have been working with the Taller Shawe artist residency program in an indigenous Zapotec community in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico since the end of March. The Taller Shawe program is specifically focused in bringing in artists to collaborate with local artisanas on new ways of bringing their traditional textile works into the contemporary realm. I came with the plan of creating a line of naturally dyed, 100% organic sarongs to be sold in the surrounding beach towns. Upon my arrival, and with my growing knowledge of the community and inability to put down my camera, I realized that my work here must be photographic.
And so began my collaboration with the local women of the Projecto Telar workshop on a series of self-portraits. How a work of self-portraiture can be a collaborative effort is still something I am working towards answering on a daily basis. With the initiation of my project I first had to introduce the women to the concept and practice of self-portraiture. I began by showing the group my own work as well as the work of many other self-portrait artists, including Frida Kahlo whom none of the women had ever heard of. This group of incredible artisanas work primarily in handicrafts of wool, wood and other natural materials and the concept of creating a piece of art for the purpose of self-reflection still remains slightly foreign to the women I am working with in this indigenous mountainside pueblo. This is why I find the project to be an important one.
To begin I first ask the women to think about how they want to present themselves to the world through this piece of work. Then together we work out the best way to interpret these ideas photographically; what to include in the image, location, time of day, composition, lighting. After the photograph is made, with each woman working directly along side me, eye to the camera, the women will embellish their prints with the use of their traditional working methods; dying, embroidery, knitting, natural basket weaving, etc.
These self-portrait collaborations, as well as the other work being made here with Taller Shawe, will be presented in a show at the Calles y Sueños gallery in Chicago this coming August, 2011.
I am asking for the help of loving family and friends, fellow artists and travelers, and generous world citizens. Donations will go primarily to cover printing costs for this project as well as to partially cover the monthly living costs of the residency, film costs and processing fees, and other material purchases for Taller Shawe projects. In addition, 15% of all donations will go directly to Taller Shawe and the Zapotec community of San Sebastian.
Of course, such generosity does not come without thanks! I have begun a chronicle of my experience here consisting of a photo emailed out each week, which will continue for the duration of my time here, a period of up to two years. Donors of $25 or more will be put on the mailing list and receive weekly emails for the entirety of the project and a thank you on my website. Donors of $50 or more will receive the weekly emails and thank you as well as one signed and numbered 11\"x14\" print from the series. Donors of $75 or more will receive the aforementioned emails and thank you as well as a signed and numbered triptych of prints from the series.
An enormous thank you to those who have already made donations and sent their well wishes.
Please pass this along to anyone you think may be interested.
I sincerely thank you in advance for your support and kind thoughts.