ESCONDIDO — In Spanish, “Escondido” means “hidden” or “invisible.” The collective of artists who created the “DesEscondido” art exhibit now on display at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, hopes to make the history, social dynamics, environmental problems and political issues facing the city no longer hidden, or “desescondido.”
That collective, named Public Address, which has existed since 1997. As its name entails, Public Address makes art addressing social issues of broad public interest. In the nomenclature of the arts community, that’s known as public art.
Art pieces for “DesEscondido” address hot button issues such as Alzheimer’s disease, immigration policy, migrant labor, Middle Eastern politics, the potential for apocalypse and building survivalist bunkers, the ecological health of the Escondido Creek, taco trucks and more.
Yes, taco trucks play a prominent role at the exhibit. One display features paintings of taco stand trucks selling their goods at iconic places throughout the U.S.
A series of paintings by local artist Wick Alexander pokes fun at a comment made by Marco Gutierrez when he was acting as a surrogate for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump on a segment on MSNBC during the 2016 presidential election cycle. During that appearance, Gutierrez of Latinos for Trump stated that rampant undocumented immigration into the U.S. from Mexico could lead to “taco trucks on every corner” throughout the U.S. Alexander’s artistic formation brings that reality to life in satirical form.
Another display sits as a multi-pronged piece of art which makes the generally unseen issue of migrant labor done in Salinas, California — located in the north central part of the state — a teachable moment.
The piece does so by paying homage to the painstaking labor done in Salinas to make lettuce production possible, having paper bags with lettuce leaves drawn upon them which contain memorial candles inside of them. According to the artist behind this display, Melissa Smedley, the candles are akin to those traditionally seen on the Mexican holiday of Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead.
Not just an artistic piece serving as a memorial, however, Smedley also crafted a curtain-like object with the pieces of the curtain resembling various types of lettuce which are meant to convey the beauty of the various lettuce leaves cultivated by these farmworkers.
Smedley added that, though we often experience the U.S.-Mexico border wall as a visible sign of U.S. immigration policy, what in turn remains unseen is the migrant labor which puts lettuce, fruits and other vegetables on tables throughout San Diego County and beyond. To display this disparity between seen and unseen, Smedley painted a picture of a field of lettuce with a painting of the U.S.-Mexico border map superimposed on top of that picture, in effect making the invisible suddenly visible.
Yet another section of the new exhibit tells the story of ecological harm being done in the form of water pollution in Escondido. Artist Ruth Wallen did so in the form of a set piece titled, “Daylighting Escondido Creek Watershed.” Wallen says that few even know what the Escondido Creek is and where it flows, let alone the pollution issues it faces, even though it flows right through the heart of the city.
All of the pieces for “DesEscondido” are tied together via poetry penned by Gerda Govine Ituarte.
The poetry, Ituarte explained and showed in a walking tour of the entire installment, is meant not only to serve as words which explain the deeper meaning behind the art pieces, but also meant to be artful in of itself via the way in which it is colored, shaped and displayed. Ituarte’s poems greet visitors from the front entrance of the museum and weave their way throughout the entirety of “Des-Escondido.”
Her husband, too, Luis Ituarte, has art on exhibit at “DesEscondido.” Two major pieces, in fact. One of them is a series of metallic sculptures which symbolize various members of his family. The other one is an alter for the forthcoming Día de los Muertos holiday and three artists who were part of the Public Address collective who have recently passed away.
As part of both “DesEscondido” and the broader Día de los Muertos observance, which takes place annually at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido, Ituarte paid for the harvesting of Cempasúchitl flowers grown in Rosarito, Mexico, which are both traditional and authentic to the festival. Those flowers will play a part in the Center for the Arts’ Nov. 1 celebration of the day, which will draw the hundreds of people in attendance to the real historic roots of the holiday and how it came to be celebrated in Mexico and by those of Mexican heritage.
“DesEscondido” will sit on-exhibit at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido until Nov. 18.