For Elisa Ortega Montilla, the artist and curator behind this weeklong exhibit at UCSB’s Glass Box Gallery, the lack of attention paid here in California to the March 8 celebration of International Women’s Day came as something of a shock. In Spain, where Ortega grew up, this holiday is a bigger deal, and she expected that more women would be aware of it when she moved here. Sensing an opportunity to do something about it, she rallied a group of eight women artists who live in California and have international backgrounds to put together this show, the full title of which is March 8 by 8 Women.
The participants are Daniela Campins, Yumiko Glover, Francesca Lalanne, Labkhand Olfatmanesh, Shirin Rastin, Maria Rendón, Celia Herrera Rodriguez, and Cintia Alejandra Segovia, and the Event sponsors include the UCSB MultiCultural Center, the Professional Women’s Association, and the UCSB Art Department.
In anticipation of this multifaceted experience, Ortega helped gather some thoughts from the artists about why now is a good time for this kind of show. Shirin Rastin, who moved to the United States 18 years ago and now lives in Orange County, said that she is still “always thinking about my [Iranian] people.” She uses her art practice, which often involves the repurposing of popular genres such as the jigsaw puzzle and the children’s book, to share stories with her non-Iranian audience that will “inform them about what’s been happening in Iran for the last 40 years” and to share her firsthand experiences as a woman and an immigrant.
Maria Rendón, a painter whose work will be familiar to many in Santa Barbara, identifies the centrality of water as a medium for her painting practice as a type of connection to this specific place and time. Although she strives for universality in her elegant and sophisticated manipulation of pigment and tone, she said that when using “tap, rain, and holy water mixed with paint,” she “can’t help but think about how water is so crucial to the balance of our environment.” Her contribution to the show is a construction called “New Fires” that’s made of 52 individual paintings.
For Ortega, the excitement of this particular moment stems from the fact that these eight artists share “an intersectional approach to feminism that challenges viewers both critically and creatively.” For example, Cintia Alejandra Segovia will be showing a series of photos called simply “Santa” that presents the struggle she experienced growing up in Mexico surrounded by both Western cartoons and religious icons such as the Virgen de Guadalupe.
Presenting the work of women with roots in Iran, Mexico, Japan, and Venezuela expresses Ortega’s fundamental desire to create sororidad here in Santa Barbara. She explains her goals simply, saying, “For me it’s really important to create the events that I’d like to see in my community. If I don’t find them, I think that it’s my responsibility to create them.”
4•1•1 | March 8 by 8 Women runs until March 13. A closing reception will be held on March 13, 5-7 p.m., at UCSB’s Glass Box Gallery; regular gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.