The “Land of Milk & Honey” art exhibit curated by the MexiCali Biennial has arrived in Riverside’s crown jewel, The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture & Industry. The show features an array of mixed media with eye-catching paintings to obscure sculptures. The Biennial chose each project because of its significant meaning toward the prospects of the exhibit.
The MexiCali Biennial was kickstarted by artists Ed Gomez & Luis G. Hernandez. Biennials reside in the art world as an expansive collection of works that pops up every two years. However, Gomez and Hernandez’s Biennial does not stay restricted to its two-year rule. The Mexicali Biennial has put on multiple exhibitions throughout back-to-back years, with “Land of Milk & Honey” marking the fifth iteration of the Biennial.
The sacred “Land of Milk & Honey” is built on satirical yet serious views on border issues. Crossing the border marks a drastic turning point in an individual’s life. The corner of “Land of Milk & Honey” is home to a band of milk cartons with an acrylic painted image of Emiliano Zapata — a Mexican revolutionary leader who ignited the people’s revolution within Central Mexico. The artistic milk containers were made by Pablo Castañeda and Eduardo Kintero, who called the project “The Scar, The Border Dream.”The passage across the land forever marks individuals who cross the border. They have an invisible scar down their chest carved in by the border. Behind the iconography of Zapata lies three vertical lines that stand in for the U.S. Mexico border. Above the congregation of milk boxes stands a lone carton with the same design meant to symbolize the unfilled promises of the Mexican Revolution. Castañeda & Kintero’s artwork raises awareness about the constant hurdles Mexicans face on their journey towards success.
The center of “Land of Milk & Honey” is recognized by a bottomless tub of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos labeled “Pasarela de Chucherias.” Jazmin Urrea handcrafted construction on the piece, calling attention to the infamous “food apartheid” that causes minorities in low-income communities to have limited access to nutritious food. Lack of nourishing sustenance causes a domino effect that leads to obesity, hypertension and other food-borne diseases. The Flamin’ Hot art installation is a stark reminder of the toxic elements that come with processed foods.
“Land of Milk & Honey” has stellar artwork worldwide, including our very own Riverside, California. “Pickers & Packers” is a mixed media venture created by Inland Empire natives Juan Delgado and Thomas McGroven that highlights workers of the local citrus industry. Delgado and McGroven have put together photomurals, handwritten poetry and video to allow the public to gain a greater appreciation of workers who make easy access to citrus possible. The photo mural is labeled “aquí me enseñaron (Here they taught me),” displaying images and interviews with the men working in Riverside’s legendary orange groves. It offers a glimpse into the current state of labor within the citrus business. In front of the photo mural rests a table mural titled “A corrido for hairnets.” It encourages museum patrons to write down a comment on women’s role in the complex citrus process. The table filled up with names and phrases in less than three days. “Pickers & Packers” allow citizens of Riverside to put a face towards the hard work that goes along with our prized oranges. My great grandparents were drawn to the work opportunities created by the orange groves. Orange pickers and packers have been the economic backbone of Riverside for generations.
MexiCali’s Biennial “Land of Milk & Honey” examines activism and art from both sides of the border. The work discussed above barely scratches the surface of what the new exhibit offers. Immigrants saw America as a land oozing with wealth, opportunities and bountiful piles of food or a land of milk & honey. However, the promised land of peace and equality can only be reached if it exists. Unfortunately, humanity is too stubborn to produce an idyllic land like the one described in the exhibit. “Land of Milk & Honey” shows viewers a grim yet realistic outlook on the American dream.
“Land of Milk & Honey” is on display at The Cheech until May 28.