Jackie Amézquita is a Los Angeles–based artist and designer. In her final project at ArtCenter, where she earned her BFA in Spring 2018, she walked 178 miles in silence from the Tijuana border to downtown LA in a performance that both embodied the resilience of immigrant women and echoed her own experiences crossing the border illegally as a teenager in 2003. Born in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, and now a green card holder, she recently discussed the project, Huellas que Germinan (Footprints That Sprout), on ArtCenter’s ChangeLab podcast.
It’s not the same to look at the facade of a house as to be invited into it. Get to know the interior of the house, walk around the corridors, step into the living room, look at the preferences of colors and textures of the walls. Take a look at the family photos in the surroundings, see the choices in furniture of a family or individual. Smell what is cooking in the oven for the next meal and observe those small details, like the pink peonies on the kitchen table as a centerpiece. That is what art can do that journalism cannot do. Art is an open door to a more intimate conversation, where the artist becomes a tool to create a more in-depth experience. In other words, the artist is the door that allows other people to interact with the interior of a different reality, dimension, or perspective.
Art is interpreted for its use of specific elements, for example the use of line, color, texture, form, space, value, shape, or volume. These aspects help develop the content of the narrative in the art work in conjunction with other principles like balance, proportion, movement, harmony, etc., while journalism presents the idea of the narrative in verbal or written form while using other supporting elements to their stories—photos, videos, testimonials. But it often lacks vulnerability. Even though they are different in many factors, they both share one important quality, that is to share a story with real facts, correct? However, with all the misleading information these days, how much can we trust media during this time when the information we get from several networks is different? Journalism could only be presented in a literal form, while art can be represented in an abstract form, using an unconventional language that still communicates feelings, emotions, to help humanize those stories. Some of these stories, told in a literal language, can be confrontational, and art could help navigate those waters.
Also, art can be made in collaboration with other artists, and each individual artist can hold equal position and the same value in the work. On the other hand, journalists need the approval of their news director before those stories get aired. Art comes from the first perspective, while artists don’t need the approval of other identities to produce the work and to exhibit it to an audience. This is why art is important: people have the opportunity to see it and interact with it, not just hear about it, and they can doubt the content. Art can help people understand and humanize difficult situations.
In my practice as an artist and activist, my interaction with the environment is one of the most important elements. I need to experience it myself, be on the actual site, talk to the people who live in the area, navigate the space and explore feelings, emotions, and possible reactions. As an artist I need to live it, not just see it! This allows me to make connections with the material choices in my work and helps me with understanding in a more direct experience. I can’t rely on the information that I see online or in TV. Media presents edited stories by a group of several people in charge of communicating a story, while art has more freedom: no one has to choose for the artist; as an artist, I make my own choices without any other direction than the associations I’ve intuitively made. The most important thing that art can do that journalism cannot do is turn the negative into a positive and give humanity a small glimpse of light shining through a bigger struggle.