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New Artwork by
Tatiana Arocha

7/11-9/12
Winter Garden

Bajo el manto de la selva / Under the Cover of the Jungle
Commissioned by Arts Brookfield for Brookfield Place New York.

Portrait by Peter Ross

Tune in to the sounds of the Colombian rainforest to fully immerse yourself within ‘Bajo el manto de la selva / Under the Cover of the Jungle.’

This summer, Arts Brookfield has awarded visual artist Tatiana Arocha with the Brookfield Place New York Annual Arts Commission from which she will present her first large-scale sculptural work in the Winter Garden. For the project, Tatiana Arocha has created a lush, suspended sculpture made of hand-made paper, tree branches, reed, fique and wood. Titled, Bajo el manto de la selva / Under the Cover of the Jungle, the work is representative of the artist’s layered relationship with the ecology of Colombia, her home country.

Growing up, Arocha often journeyed to the Colombian rainforests where she saw Indigenous and Afro-Colombian lands and lifeways caught in the middle of eco- and genocidal forces of the drug trade. She came to the United States as an adult to pursue a design career, and while she succeeded, she struggled with the limited ethnopolitical identities afforded her as a Colombian American immigrant.

The dizzyingly biodiverse Colombian forest, and the complex social and economic histories that have threatened its existence since the colonists arrived, remain indelibly imprinted in Arocha’s psyche, and emerge in her artistic practice in the form of texturally detailed forest landscapes. Her process starts from botanical field work that includes drawing, rubbing, photographing, preserving, and tracing the bark, seeds, and leaves of the forest. These experiences are further enriched through conversations with Indigenous peoples for whom forests are more than places dense with resources to be extracted. From them, she learned that forests can be sustainably cultivated into spaces for creating eco-systemic, social and spiritual relationships across generations and species.

For Arocha, the process of making the commission for the Winter Garden enabled her to continue both her artistic and ecological education. With a female coop in Barichara, Colombia, she learned how to make paper from fique and pineapple fiber. The paper has been lovingly shaped into the leaves of the Yarumo tree, ferns, and balazos, which have interlocking uses that range from ritual and medicinal purposes to fiber for weaving baskets and bags, and food. Bajo el manto de la selva represents the abundance and intelligence that the forest offers us if we look and listen deeply.

With this work, Arocha invites us to embark on the long journey of challenging the hierarchies of knowledge given to us. Only then might we truly comprehend the immensity of what we would lose if we do not act to protect these complex ecosystems.

 

Bajo el manto de la selva / Under the Cover of the Jungle was made in collaboration with Fundación San Lorenzo de Barichara papermakers: Yadira Bueno, Serafina Sánchez, Margarita Suárez, Hercilia Velásquez, Aida Janeth Velásquez, Amparo Angarita, Ana Lucila Sánchez, Gloria María Sánchez, Deysi Viviana Viviescas, Julieth Romero, Luz Mery Rivera; and nest weaving by Marcela Carrasco Sua-ty Textil.

Text by Prerana Reddy.


Tatiana Arocha (1974) is a New York-born Colombian artist, living in Brooklyn on Lenape ancestral lands. Her art practice explores intimacy between people and land, rooted in personal memory and her immigrant experience, and centers on community through public art interventions and transdisciplinary knowledge exchange. Most often, Arocha’s works vivify and reconstruct the vulnerable tropical forests of her homeland, confronting the ecological, emotional, and cultural loss caused by extractive economies and colonial practices. In weaving together historical and contemporary technologies, Arocha’s unconventional process and craft express her layered relationship with nature and cultural transformation.

She has held residencies at The Wassaic Project, LABverde, Centro Selva, Arquetopia, Sinfonia Tropico, and Zea Mays Printmaking. Arocha has received funding from The Sustainable Arts Foundation, Brooklyn Arts Council, and City Artist Corps.

Solo exhibitions include Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling, BioBAT Project Space, Queens Botanical Garden, and site-specific installations at BRIC, Brookfield Place/Winter Garden, MTA Arts, Goethe-Institut Kolumbien, and Hilton Bogota Corferias. She has participated in group exhibitions at Smack Mellon, Wave Hill, BRIC, The Wassaic Project, ArtBridge, KODALab, and The Clemente.

About San Lorenzo de Barichara Foundation
The San Lorenzo de Barichara Foundation was created 20 years ago to promote the development of Barichara, a town in Santander, Colombia. Its purpose is to bring together the community in Barichara and the surrounding rural area, collect the diverse knowledge of the people, review local materials, and honor Santander’s traditions and expertise in botany and art. From plants such as fique and pineapple, long fibers are extracted that are intertwined with each other in an artisanal way until a strong, resistant paper surface is obtained that is suitable for drawing and painting.

Ten female heads of households work in this space using natural fibers and dyes under the maintenance and care of an ecological path that showcases how numerous plants can become paper. From time to time, the workshop travels to nearby schools to pass down their knowledge, while supporting neighbors who are related in one way or another to their trades. Collectively they cultivate the fibers that are needed to weave a community.

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