Colombian artists showcase their work at Emerson

strongAndrew Doerfler, Beacon Staff/strong

In a Colombian city filled with negative perceptions about women, young artists have pushed back to illuminate the rich culture of Medellín mothers and daughters.

Photographs, drawings, and sculptures filled the Bill Bordy Theater Wednesday as four Colombian students brought their work to Medellín: Mujeres, the second Emerson College exhibition from Proyecto Boston Medellín. Led by Emerson writing professor Tamera Marko and her husband Jota Samper, the project is a collaboration between Emerson and the Universidad Nacional de Colombia at Medillín that promotes bringing art — and artists — across borders.

Marko said that the goal of the project is to overcome what she calls double displacement: when an artist’s work is shown in another country, but the artist cannot come along to tell the art’s story. By using essays and documentaries to draw in the attention of the U.S. embassy, the artists managed to get visas and show their work personally in Boston.

At Wednesday’s exhibition, the four artists, all young women, explored different facets of Colombian femininity. Leidy Vanessa Vahos focused on her own family in emI Am My Mother But a Better Version/em, while Natalia Giraldo Giraldo’s emPray For Her/em examined another mother, the Virgin Mary, through crumbling salt sculptures. Maria Cecilia Cardona’s photographs depicted women posed as characters that Cardona created based on the subjects’ personal passions. Tatiana de los Ríos Gaviria’s work explored her and others’ idea of home.

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But the artists also try to extend their message beyond the art itself. By uploading their artwork and writing to the web, Marko said, they aim to rise above the many negatives stories that currently appear when one searches online about women in Medellín.

“[Students] are especially important because you’re all super savvy at communicating in social media and making that transcend borders,” said Marko. “There was nothing like it [when I was younger].”

Other convergences of art and technology featured heavily at Wednesday’s event. Most prominently, a live webchat projected on a large screen connected the Bill Bordy to students and scholars in Colombia. Scholars, school faculty, and young artists chatted across the equator, praising the opportunities that Proyecto Boston-Medellín affords.

“It’s essential because of the many locales,” said Samper. “Technology is the only thing that keeps us together. It’s as necessary as air to keep the project together.”

Indeed, communication was vital to the success of their artwork. Most of the artists conducted extensive interviews with women who had endured violence in order to best relay their stories to an unfamiliar audience. Cardona said she was surprised by their positive approach to life.

“They’re strong; they’re happy,” she said in Spanish through a translator. “Sometimes they don’t realize how strong and beautiful they are.”

emDoerfler can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @adoerfler./em