It is hard to believe that I've almost finished my masters. I have one month till my defence, three weeks till the exhibition install. I'm still printing, not exactly frantically, but steadily every day to finish my last piece. Here is a picture of the piece in progress. Since this print will be free-hanging in the centre of one of the gallery spaces, I'm printing on both sides. I'm still working on the back and I might make a few changes to the front yet (I updated the photo and it's the final version of the front now). It's been an interesting challenge printing on this scale. The central paper banner measures a little over 3 feet x 8 feet (98cm x 240cm), but I can move the printing plates and the paper quite freely on the press bed, although it is quite cumbersome. Fortunately the paper is quite sturdy and has withstood all the rigours of dampening and printing (Japanese Shoji Paper).
Most of the work in my thesis exhibition is a bit dark and melancholy, dealing with environmental, social, and economic issues of industrial agriculture in Paraguay, the rapid disappearance of the dry forests due to deforestation, dispossession and migration of indigenous people and peasant farmers, etc. One of the big topics I also looked at and which ultimately inspired this piece is food sovereignty, which encompasses access to local foods, the right to grow food through subsistence farming, as well as the right to save seeds. I wanted to create a piece that was a bit more hopeful, and the image of a seed with the potential for growth and a symbol for life preserved in a seed jar emerged. I commissioned my husband, Terry Hildebrand, who is a potter, to make these jars inspired by the forms of ancient earthenware seed jars from indigenous peoples in the Chaco. However, I also wanted to give the jars a more contemporary look, so Terry glazed the porcelain with a clear shiny glaze. I put decals with screen printed images of seed germination cycles of beans, squash, and corn - traditional staple foods - on each jar.
The hands symbolize the collective effort needed to fight for the right to save seeds, to maintain seed saving traditions, and the collective effort to produce food in a sustainable way. Several of the hand gestures suggest the act of planting seeds (see detail below) and in conjunction with the imagery on the jars the passing on of the knowledge of planting to future generations. In that sense the seeds jars represent vessels of hope.
One of my advisors pointed out another possible meaning of the hands: in some regions in Brazil, people hang wax-cast body parts on the ceilings of a chapel to pray for healing of certain ailments. I love that image and in that sense, the hands in this piece are a prayer for healing, which works beautifully in the context of the rest of my exhibition.