Phoenix artist Saskia Jordá’s practice engages in an iterative mapping and remapping to explore concepts of cultural identity, bodies in space, and sense of place.
Across diverse and interdisciplinary bodies of work, Saskia Jordá’s artistic practice engages in an iterative mapping and remapping to explore concepts of cultural identity, bodies in space, and sense of place. Born in Caracas, Venezuela, and now based in Phoenix, Jordá is intimately aware of the many veils, or “skins,” that contribute to our conception of identity, and that the definition of a person and a body changes in response to the space that body occupies.
“Having relocated from my native Venezuela to the United States as a teenager, I became aware of the layers of ‘skin’ that define and separate cultures—one’s own skin, the second skin of clothing, the shell of one’s dwelling place—all these protecting the vital space of one’s hidden identity,” she writes in her artist statement.
Whether it be yarn, felt, embroidery thread, or rope, Jordá’s nimble use of textile is central to her practice. In her hands, textiles carry an expansive degree of metaphorical heft. These textiles mutate between veins, sutures, nets, shreds, flags, the lines of a map, and more throughout various bodies of work.
In Lineage (2017), a sculptural installation designed to cascade from one’s shoulders, red embroidery threads become networks of veins that supersede and envelope the body of the wearer. These tendrils of ancestry couple conflicting truths about identity through their overwhelming scale, punchy red color, and soft texture. As much as family, ancestry, and bloodlines delimit and delineate identity, they also serve as channels of connection and nurturing roots. These are binds that act as both nets and networks.
Jordá’s ability to reckon with internal tensions is in full-force in her recent exhibition Prayer for America (November 20, 2020-January 20, 2021) at Walter Art Gallery in Phoenix. The installation features an oversized strand of prayer beads made up of fifty American flags bound up in thread and roped together. The gallery website cites the rosary of the artist’s Catholic upbringing, as well as the many faith traditions worldwide that see prayer or meditation as sources of healing and remedies against hardship. The work acknowledges the political and cultural turmoil of our current moment—many Americans are feeling as bound-up and bound-in as Jordá’s curled up flags; bound to a country, to each other, to political systems, for better or worse. Despite this, the artist’s prayer-bead composition is profoundly hopeful, and suggests that there is healing to come and a potential to unfurl.
“I did not make the choice to become an American lightly, nor do I take it for granted,” the artist says of the installation. “Prayer for America is my response to the anxieties and fears I see brewing about the future of our country.” It is also her gift, her own act of healing and meditation, as plaster-cast hands on the gallery wall begin the slow, deliberate work of picking up the pieces.
Phoenix, AZ | saskiajorda.com | ig: @saskiajorda