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Beauty Bearing Witness: The Art of Viviana Paredes

In Viviana Paredes’s deft hands, the art-making process begins as a dialogue between her and the materials and then transforms into a conversation involving the artwork and viewer. Her artworks capture viewers with the beauty of its sensuous sculptural forms or the reflective light from containers of multicolored organic materials. Many of her pieces combine the fragile, yet malleable medium of glass with metal, wood, and organic materials to create aesthetic objects that impart important messages. “I like the juxtaposition of using something so ancient as glassmaking to confront modern issues” Successfully combining technical proficiency with strong aesthetic principles, Paredes’s art explores cultural issues, underscored spiritual connections, and promotes environmental responsibility.

As an artist, Paredes has a long history of attention to environmental issues, and specifically those related to the cultivation of one of humanity’s oldest foods: corn. Aside from identifying culturally with it, Paredes chose corn as representative of a larger global concern with genetically engineered crops and animals. For one piece, she collected different kinds of “heirloom” corn seeds and placed them in glass “kernels” to create a totem.

In addition to lamenting the loss of the inherent beauty found in the myriad variety of kernel colors and forms, Paredes imparts a warning that a lack of understanding regarding the interconnectedness between humans and nature will cause our demise. It is the spirit of equal commitment to artistry and content that makes Paredes artwork so important and a truly universal art.

Tere Romo, Research Associate, UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center and former Curator of Exhibitions at the The Mexican Museum of San Francisco