I became lost in terms of what to create, particularly after graduating from art college and losing the community and creative environment that nurtured my creativity. A recent trip back to my home country of Mexico initiated my realization that I yearned for connection with my culture and the rich history of my heritage that inspired my work. This residency would be an incredible opportunity for my career as an artist to flourish by allowing me to have the facilities to create my work, connect with peers to think critically with, and expand my creative practice. I seek to learn from the world around me and confront the doubts that obstruct my self-development.
Through this residency, I aim to create a project specifically connected with Mexican Folk Art, and the traditional techniques I have yet to explore such as paper mache, cut paper, and fresco painting. With this new exploration of my culture’s art history and techniques, I also seek to contextualize a cultural narrative that I believe is lost in the contemporary fine art setting. If given the opportunity, I would like to begin my time at GlogauAIR’s program by honoring my grandfather, Tito, through a decorative altar displayed during the traditional holiday of Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Tito was someone who taught me how to appreciate beauty in all aspects of life. He cultivated a rose garden and formed a relationship with this beautiful object and, with his care, it spoke back. He believed that the buds and vibrant colors of the petals expressed promise, new beginnings, and hope while its thorns represent defense, loss, and protection. When Tito passed, his love of roses lived on in the way I approached traditional ideas of loss. In Mexico, everything is celebrated- even death. Prior to Spanish colonization in the 16th century, Dia de Los Muertos took place at the beginning of summer, before it gradually became associated with Halloween, and celebrated on November 1st and 2nd to coincide with Western Christianity. Coincidentally, Tito passed on October 31st and, while Halloween is a dark night of terror and mischief, Dia de Los Muertos festivities unfold over two days in an explosion of color and life-affirming joy.
Fortunately, the holiday falls on November 2nd, which is one-third of the way through GlogauAIR’s program. I would love to make this event a communal interaction between my fellow artists in the residency and invite them to participate by also honoring their deceased loved ones in this celebration of life. Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars (called ofrendas), honoring the deceased using calaveras (elaborately decorated sugar skulls), Aztec marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed. For the main installation of the project, I want to create a monumental altar flooded with flowers made from paper mache, papel picado (cut paper) and paint – like a cascade of ornamentation.
In the second part of the residency, I plan to continue delving into Mexican folklore, in particular, El Árbol de la Vida (The Tree of Life), and explore the clay sculptures created in central Mexico, especially in the municipality of Metepec, State of México. Traditionally, these sculptures consist of biblical symbols, however, I am interested in the way that historical symbology tells a story, depict a scene, or forms a theme through the use of maximum ornamentation. Although I am interested in ceramics, I would like to explore the idea of these Trees of Life through other mediums such as painting as well as installation. With the same concept of the altar, I will create a space of narrative through these trees of life.
I believe that in an environment that preserves history while embracing contemporary perspectives such as Berlin, I can cultivate my vision as an artist. Though thinking critically is an incredibly important skill to exercise for my own work, I have always cherished the valuable and unexpected feedback I have received from viewers and art critics alike. The continually evolving nature of Berlin is an environment I wish to be a part of and grow in. My multidisciplinary background also gives me the skills to explore new materials and techniques that I may not have encountered in the U.S. Though living in an unfamiliar environment will have its challenges at first, I believe my determination and perseverance in new situations will aid me in overcoming any adversity and allow me to serve my purpose and flourish as an artist.
Growing up half of her life in Mexico City, Mexico and the other half in San Antonio, Texas, Dani Toral became very aware of her misplacement in both society’s standards. Toral rejected her body and was constantly challenged about her ethnic identity as she struggled to exist in a society so rigid in its expectations. It is through her work and her process in painting and sculpture that she is beginning to understand and explore the experiences she has had in her body as a Mexican-American woman. Through bold mark-making and vibrant color palettes that reflect her rich Hispanic culture, she takes ownership of her ethnicity by titling her work in Spanish, thus conquering the doubt she felt in her physical body and racial identity. Toral seeks to balance her appreciation and desire to reconnect with Mesoamerican History, Mexican Folk Art, and Mexican architecture, while dismantling the visage of whiteness that society expects of her.
Toral’s work ranges from small scale to large scale paintings, as well as sculptural objects and ceramic vessels that she creates with the intention to invoke a sense of warmth when experiencing the work. Toral is attracted to her most uncomfortable memories as a way to bring pleasure to that discomfort through subtle humor. She is also interested in the feeling of comfort, externally and internally, literal and emotional- a sense of fulfillment, like a bowl of soup or the embrace of a mother. Toral finds these moments of fulfillment through painting symbols and objects that stem from her mother culture, such as a traditional dish or a memorable landscape. Working sculpturally has been an integral evolution of her painting process. Through creating spaces of comfort and physical embrace – a home or an inviting atmosphere, she seeks to evoke an all-encompassing sense of familiarity and warmth in the viewer.
Graduated with a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art
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