Red Meander

Submitted by Marela Zacarias

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Client: Art in Embassies, U.S. Department of State

Location: Monterrey, Mexico

Completion date: 2014

Artwork budget: $200,000

Project Team

Client

Camille Benton

Art in Embassies, Department of State

Other

Sean Sweeney

Overview

Red Meander is a permanent artwork installed at the U.S. Embassies in Monterrey, Mexico. The textural mural, approximately 108 x 624 x 24 inches, extends horizontally, covering the wall above the waiting room of the visa issuing section of the embassies, where an average of 4,000 people seeking visas go through daily. The sculptural mural is a welcoming visual experience to all who come into the embassies, highlighting in particular the intersection of the Mexican and American cultures and artistic expressions together in one space.

Goals

Materially, the artwork is comprised of 26 4 x 2 x 2 ft wooden panels with cleats that slide into each other horizontally like a chain. Each piece is supported by a flat wooden back and cleat. Through the use of painted geometric shapes on the undulating forms of the sculpture, Red Meander evokes the language of Mayan textiles. Inspired by indigenous textile patterns from Mexico, Zacarias became especially interested in Mayan patterns and colors and saw this project as an opportunity to create an abstract interpretation of these visual systems. Hidden in plain sight on clothing and decorations, these symbols survived through colonization and modern times. Weaving became a form of cultural resistance that was passed on from mothers to daughters for centuries. Similar to her own identity and personal history, Zacarias’ Red Meander exists in the intersection of two cultures and artistic expressions that come together and create something new. In the creation of this work, the artist did not copy any specific textile pattern. Instead, she allowed her research to be absorbed, to be processed and assimilated through her own artistic voice.

Process

Red Meander was created in Zacarias’ studio in Brooklyn, NY with a team of the artist and ten assistants. Zacarias worked with Camille Benton, the curator from Art in Embassies in Washington, DC, as well as the architect, designers, construction and local staff to complete and instal the project on a timeline of one year. The textural mural is made from a wooden structure, wire mesh and layers of joint compound and acrylic polymer. The material is light, very durable and easy to clean. It has a protective coat that makes it resistant to humidity. The construction process in the studio involved slow building and sanding of surface, then painting and finishing. This process is used in other projects created by the artist, however, the colors, patterns, and shapes were all composed specifically for Red Meander and highlight both aspects of Mayan history and a dialogue with the surrounding architecture. Red Meander pays homage to the women and men who have and continue to create beautiful textiles in Mexico and to the complexity and beauty of their patterns and designs.