As a multimedia artist, Eva Rocha has worked in sculpture, performance art, set design and video work, so she considers her materials to be whatever is available to her. Learning how to use various ones on her own and in her own way, she insists that her work constant is not her materials, but herself.
“Even when I created a work, a sculpture or a video with the participation of others, they express my overall emotion,” she says. “I am the actor behind the characters. I create them from the inside.”
The multiple figures in Rocha’s new exhibit “Mothering 1” connect, both literally and figuratively, one flowing into the other. Created from thread attached to untreated canvas, the figures depict Rocha, her late mother and her daughter, emphasizing duality and connectivity.
The artist admits the pandemic has affected her in many difficult ways, specifically with fears of death and losing her loved ones. Tragically, she lost her mother in September.
“She was buried within a couple hours,” says Rocha, who went to Brazil to grieve with her sisters in an empty house. “I never tried so hard to save my memories. I created works during this time, while holding my emotional states of being a child and mother. Creating work that related to my mother and remembering her postures, gestures, expression and recognizing them in me, I worked to absorb them and not let them go.”
She found herself wondering if her role was to become the container of her mother, eventually naming one of the works this way. Subsequently, she found herself creating myriad works related to the theme of mother and child, although a good number of them were, in her words, very heavy and painful. For “Mothering 1,” she chose some of the more lyrical depictions of mothering.
Rocha was not a publicly recognized artist when she became a mother, although she was creating the same images – then as well as in her childhood – that are now referred to as her art.
“Like a mirror, your child reminds you of yourself as a child,” she says. “After losing my mother, everything became layered: the memory of me as a child, my mother, myself as a mother and my child.” The new exhibit, “Mothering 1,” currently at Reynolds Gallery, reflects the complexities of Rocha’s memories of her roles as child, mother and daughter.
As a child, she remembers creating figures with the lint of fabric that fell to the ground after her grandmother or mother had been cutting fabric. Throughout her life, she entertained herself by creating figures with hair that had fallen to the bathroom floor. Other times, she used bits of thread to stitch the images onto pieces of cloth.
“These works are an embodiment of my memory as a child or of me as mother,” she explains. “They are personal, yet universal, about that relationship and of the way we contain our mothers through gestures, expressions and spirit.”
The 10 pieces in the exhibition have a deceiving simplicity given the complexity of emotions they raise, a deliberate dichotomy according to the artist, who says her art is always intentional. “My art always comes from me, it contains me. They were me before they were art or before I was seen as an artist.”
Titling the collection of thread drawings was an outgrowth of what Rocha was processing during a difficult time.
“I named this group of work I am showing now as ‘Mothering, 1’ because, after I lost my mother, I was processing the breadth of mothering and being mothered,” she says. “Some of the works - a Part 2 - are difficult, sad, disturbing and some of them are still being purged from me.”
Rocha has no way of knowing how her work will be perceived by the viewing public. In her experience, only a person who goes to see art can know why they seek it out.
“Is it for the experience of seeing something aesthetically pleasing?” she muses. “I always wish the viewers of my art will see my work with an opened state of feeling, as when listening to a song or reading a poem or watching a play or movie.
But that is not for me to know.”
“Mothering, 1” runs through Feb. 20 at Reynolds Gallery, 1514 W. Main St. Visit reynoldsgallery.com.