Pocket Full of Posies explores the multiple meanings invested in ordinary objects, taking things redolent of childhood and transforming them into multi-faceted symbols. Some of Aranda's pieces are reproductions of art that graced his childhood home. Mass-produced art in faux gold frames was given pride of place, never removed from its protective cardboard housing. Aranda scanned and resized the art to a more formidable “fine art” size, casting the frames in bronze, with custom cardboard protectors fabricated at Spokane Packaging. By recreating dime store velvet paintings and frosted mirror art using fine art processes, with specially made cardboard frames, Aranda creates a dialogue about art, class, societal aspirations, memory and nostalgia. His poignant, biting, sometimes tongue-in-cheek titles add layers of meaning and social commentary to the works.
Currently at Seattle’s Frye Art Museum, Juventino Aranda’s Pocket Full of Posies explores how everyday objects become symbols of identity and social strata. Aranda grew up in Walla Walla, Washington, the child of Mexican immigrant workers, and was the first in his family to get a University degree. His work reflects the mixed cultural heritage of immigrants in the US. As an activist and artist, Aranda uses his installations to draw attention to socioeconomic, political and cultural issues.
A particularly powerful piece, Lay Me Down On a Bed of Roses (When I’m Gone) is the exact dimensions required by the US Government for a burial flag. The cotton oxford fabric calls to mind the shirts of both businesspeople and farm laborers. The disquieting fact of its dimensions, the association of the color white with burial shrouds invokes, and the imagery of the Mexican coat of arms make this visually simple work laden with meanings, bringing to mind the deaths of migrant workers due to harsh working conditions, as well as dangerous border politics and racism.
Pocket Full of Posies runs until September 23 at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle.