The American Dream and the arid desert landscape are the subject matter of Cabrera’s new work, bridging issues such as the current war in Iraq, the desire for an improved quality of life and political and economical imbalance. Cabrera continues to work in her signature medium of soft sculpture in vinyl that she painstakingly constructs and sews by hand. The exhibition Desert Dreams will feature a life-sized Hummer (H2), desert plants and backpacks for immigrants.
Cabrera’s life-sized Hummer presents a malleable image of a war symbol. In scale, the H2 maintains its status as an American icon and symbol of military might. Its soft veneer, however, refers to its role as a disposable luxury item. Mass produced by anonymous laborers for the few who can afford them, the Hummer embodies multiple metaphors, all fundamentally rooted in the American realities of power and desire, excess, consummerism and waste. War and wealth collapse into a singular image that speaks to our current moment in history and its byproduct: popular american culture.
Desert plants such as the Nopal and Yucca are indigenous to the South Western United States, the most frequently traveled route of immigration into the United States. Cabrera’s series of plants focus on notions of nature versus social construction. The plants are sewn together out of border patrol uniforms that the artist has culled from flea markets and army uniform stores. Planted in traditional Mexican terra cotta pots, the plants bear the details of the security guard uniform – badges, buttons, zippers and tags – rendering the border control officers as the protagonists who must camouflage or hide in the American landscape.
Immigrant Backpacks shed light on the physical, spiritual and material needs of individuals as they risk their lives to cross into the United States. Designed with particular individuals in mind – a little girl, a boy, a father, a mother, and an elderly man – the backpacks are sewn out of translucent fabric that showcases the objects inside. Objects such as rosary beads and garlic to ward off rattlesnakes have been selected based on stories told by illegal immigrants.
Ms. Cabrera’s artistic practice poetically parallels that of the workers in maquiladoras (multinationally owned assembly plants located near the U.S./border) and reinforces the complexity of political and economic issues surrounding the use of migrant labor. Left deliberately exposed and untrimmed, the threads serve both as evidence of Cabrera’s own hard work as well as a reminder of the manual labor involved in the manufacturing of her subject matter. The vinyl naturally sags, much like Claes Oldenburg’s soft sculptures, imbuing Cabrera’s work with an anthropomorphic quality that references the bodies of the factory workers and the harsh physical nature of their realities.