Local artist works to create awareness of social issues in Mexico

By Joanne Bailey-Boorsma



One of the first paintings you notice when you walk into the Dominican Center at Marywood Art Gallery is that of a figure with its heart int its hands.


Just looking at it, you can tell it speaks of a tremendous lost but it also gives hope — hope to answers and to a better a future.


Artist Reyna Garcia

For Artist Reyna Garcia, it is one of the most important pieces of her current exhibit “Ayotzi, Inspiration, & Revolution,” also the title of the piece, as it it is dedicated to the parents of the 43 students who kidnapped from Ayotzinapa Rural Teacher’s College in 2014. Official reports state the students had commandeered several buses to travel to Mexico City to commemorate the anniversary of the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre. During the journey, a group of the students on one of the buses — the 43 missing male students — was intercepted. To date, the students or their bodies have never been found.


“It is about the parents of the 43,” said Garcia of the painting. “They are still looking for them every single day. They don’t stop. They are asking their government, saying we want to know where they are.”


Garcia said the tragedy is that there are many parents and relatives in Mexico who are searching for missing love ones due to the violence taking place in the country. It is her hope that by raising awareness of what happened to these students, Americans will begin to see that the money being sent to help is being funneled into other places.


“The message from me is that the parents of the 43 missing students are fighting for dignity,” Garcia said.


The exhibition is not only about the the 43 missing students, but reflects on Garcia heritage and connection to the Greater Grand Rapids area. More than 11 million people have immigrated from Mexico to the United States in hopes of building a better life, Garcia said, something that is reflected in her “Voices of Hope.” “This piece represents the difficult transition immigrants go through when coming to the United States to create a better way of life,” Garcia said. “They leave behind what is familiar like family, culture, and country and head toward what is new to chase the American Dream.”


Other images feature friends, known Mexican leaders who have been killed or in prisoned, Day of the Day imagery, and reflections on Garica’s own personal journey of acceptance.


“I hope people understand that we are human beings,” Garcia said o those who come to view the exhibit. “That we are are here and we provide culture and identity and we provide a lot of positive things and we love this country too.”


Art is part of the foundation of the Dominican Sisters, said Sister Francetta McCann, curator at the Dominican Center Art Gallery. “It is prayer, study, teaching and art,” McCann said, adding that for that reason the center has long had an art gallery.


“Ayotzi, Inspiration, & Revolution” will be up at the Dominican Center at Maywood Art Gallery, 2025 E. Fulton St. There is an opening reception set for Sunday, Dec. 11, from 1 – 4 p.m. which is right around the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe Day, which is Dec. 12. The gallery is open Mondays — Thursdays from 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Fridays from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.


For more about the exhibit, visit dominicancenter.com.