“Monads of Memory,” an exhibition gallery by artist Teresita de la Torre, is a beautiful integration of performance art, photography, drawing and installation all wrapped up by a cohesive life story.
The exhibition, which features a story of her performance art piece “365 Days in an Immigrant’s Shirt,” is a powerful statement that is especially important to not only immigrants, but Mexican-Americans and Americans everywhere.
“Monads of Memory” is a collection of works all surrounding de la Torre’s massive performance piece that she performed last year.
De la Torre wore the same plaid shirt that she found on the border of Mexico for 365 days.
“I never thought that I would do something like this, because I never really understood about performance art and I never thought that I could do something this big,” de la Torre said about her motivations behind the performance piece.
One of her professors suggested that she wear it for 30 days, but it steadily became 365.
From 2014 to 2015, de la Torre used the shirt as a way to facilitate discussions about social injustices, hemispheric politics and the human element of migration, according to Cal State Fullerton’s Department of Visual Arts.
The meaning behind de la Torre’s work goes much deeper than the simple black and white drawings strategically aligned along the gallery walls. Her drawings depict a dialogue of the experiences she had while wearing the shirt, along with her everyday life throughout the year.
“The main kind of reasoning, the main kind of feel behind this was because I’m a Mexican immigrant. I was born in Mexico, I grew up on the U.S.-Mexico border. That’s where I lived most of my life,” de la Torre said.
She was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, and moved to Laredo, Texas when she was still young. The work on the gallery walls tells a story of pure frustration and the sheer determination of any generation that was born to immigrant parents to succeed in America.
“I was really frustrated with immigration policies and I wanted to find my grain of salt to bring more awareness and more exposure to the issues surrounding the border,” de la Torre said.
De la Torre’s passion for immigration issues and love of fine arts shines clearly in the work on display in her gallery.
De la Torre said her art work came at an opportune time that corresponds with the issues that American society currently faces.
Naturally, de la Torre had a Donald Trump piñata ready for the end of her reception as a means to to celebrate the festivities.
De la Torre is not only fearful of the future under a Trump presidency, but she also never thought he would win in the first place. She has her family, who immigrated from Mexico, to thank for the life she has today.
“My parents came to this country hoping for a better life for us and hoping for us to get a better education because we lived in a really small town in Mexico without any university … so they brought us here. I think that all of my achievements are for them,” de la Torre said.
She feels that her success was worth it for her parents to have to leave their home country.
De la Torre, who received her bachelor’s from Texas A&M International, is now a part-time teacher in drawing while pursuing her Master’s in Fine Art at Cal State Fullerton.
Not only does she teach, but she also gets to continue to learn and perform her art. When she graduates, she wants to continue to teach and make art. As far as the next performance piece or gallery goes, de la Torre isn’t quite sure.
“I will probably participate in smaller shows. I don’t think any big shows like this anytime soon,” de la Torre said.
She is starting to work on a new idea but mentions that it is scary to start fresh.
Melissa Scrivner, a studio arts major graduating in December, came to support her friend’s work. She met de la Torre on a study abroad trip to Mexico.
“Teresita is a grad student here. I see her around all the time and we have classes together,” Scrivner said.
She met de la Torre while she was completing her performance piece, and she remembers that she would come to her class and talk about the shirt she was wearing.
Scrivner remembers that de la Torre was having problems trying to figure out exactly how she was going to execute the performance work she did into a gallery form.
“It’s cool to see it finally all coming together, and it came out great,” de la Torre said.
Sara Roberts, a fifth-year double major in sculpture and American studies, also met de la Torre on the same study abroad trip to Mexico.
“I am with Melissa on a lot of the same things, I think it was really cool that she was able to translate a personal performance into different mediums,” Roberts said about de la Torre’s gallery.
Roberts also thought it was “cool” how de la Torre incorporated her MFA into her gallery as well.
“It’s installation, it’s performance, it’s drawing, and so I just really appreciate the time and the different mediums she used to get her message across,” Roberts said.
“Monads of Memory” is available for viewing from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. from Nov. 14th through 17th in the Leo Freedman and Duff Galleries.