The New Yorker | Melissa Misla

Domesticanx at El Museo del Barrio features Melissa Misla

In the nineteen-nineties, the artist and Chicana-feminist theorist Amalia Mesa-Bains coined the term domesticana, to identify an art centered on materials and techniques traditionally associated with women. (She was responding to the concept of rasquachismo,which the scholar Tomás Ybarra-Frausto had developed to describe a defiantly make-do, Mexican American aesthetic.) Mesa-Bains is one of seven artists in this transporting show emphasizing memory, ritual, and handcrafted textures. Amarise Carreras’s painterly, performance-based photos capture votive still-lifes; in one annatto-hued image, whose central motif is a lit candle, pigment-smeared hands cup torn flowers. Joel Gaitan’s anthropomorphic terra-cotta vessels, some of them wittily accessorized with such on-trend items as Telfar handbags, nod to customary forms of his Nicaraguan heritage. The mixed-media, tapestry-like tableaux of the Nuyorican artist Misla depict rooms in her childhood home, in Queens. A dreamy blend of abstracted forms and realist detail (from Precious Moments figurines to flourishing houseplants) lends Misla’s work a rare intimacy and magnetic depth.

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