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Amber Robles-Gordon to give ‘Artist Talk’ at ISU

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Amber Robles-Gordon’s “Successions: Traversing U.S. Colonialism” is on display at Indiana State University this month.

Featuring six abstract textile pieces that aim to dissect the seals or flags of inhabited U.S. territories in order to spark conversation surrounding the ill-treatment of its citizens and land, Robles-Gordon’s exhibition runs from Jan. 22 to Feb. 16 with an opening reception on Feb. 1 from 4-6 p.m.

Amber Robles-Gordon (Photo provided)

“When you look at a grouping of quilts with vibrant colors and abstracted shapes, you might not have thought that that’s part of the conversation regarding colonialism or environmental racism would have been extracted from seeing this body of work,” Robles-Gordon said in an email. “I intentionally give, or at least attempt to give, different entry points of how you can engage this work.”

“Successions: Traversing U.S. Colonialism” is a smaller part of a larger exhibition Robles-Gordon created regarding her personal heritage entitled “Place of Breath and Birth.” Curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah, the previous exhibition was displayed at the American University in 2021, Robles-Gordon said. Three of the six quilts — representing Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands — were showcased during BUTTER last year. This caught the attention of curator and gallery director Tanmaya Bingham, which prompted Robles-Gordon to display all six quilts in a solo exhibition at Indiana State University.

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Bingham, who is also an instructor in the department of art and design at Indiana State University, said her mission is to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion remain prevalent on college campuses, especially since racial injustice remains an ongoing issue.

“It’s relevant to Indiana, and we’re so very passionate about making sure the community stays aware that we’re still working through this and healing things,” Bingham said. “Amber’s work is really reflective of that.”

Robles-Gordon is a multidisciplinary Afro-Latina artist based out of Washington, D.C., who was born in Puerto Rico, grew up in Arlington, Virginia, and has family living in the U.S. Virgin Islands, she said. The six double-sided quilts are meant to convey her perspective of these territories while deconstructing how they are affected by foreign and domestic policies and “stimulate further dialogue regarding the long arm of the American political machine.”

The front side of the patchwork quilts uses bright colors, symbols and deconstructed flags native to each territory to explore the issues of environmental racism, colorism, representation and treatment of marginalized communities each territory faces. The other side of the quilts interprets the spiritual and cultural energy of the land and its inhabitants, Robles-Gordon said.

Amber-Robles Gordon’s “Successions: Traversing U.S. Colonialism” is on display at Indiana State University in Terre Haute through Feb. 16, 2024 (Photos provided/Amber Robles-Gordon)
Amber-Robles Gordon’s “Successions: Traversing U.S. Colonialism” is on display at Indiana State University in Terre Haute through Feb. 16, 2024 (Photos provided/Amber Robles-Gordon)

Sometimes, other works that relate to heavy topics such as this one can be very confrontational, Bingham said. Robles-Gordon’s work embodies both the political and spiritual side and is not only visually engaging, but also a starting point for discussion, Bingham said.

“I just think her work is very powerful,” Bingham said. “At the end of the day, it’s a beautiful way to engage in this topic; it’s allowed for an entry point.”

That “entry point” will hopefully help viewers start conversations surrounding anti-blackness — or “anti-melanin” — and white supremacy, Robles-Gordon said. She hopes her work will also help to facilitate action toward change and the ways in which different communities see and engage with one another.

“We have to learn about each other, we have to engage in conversation and ritual and community with each other, because one of the reasons why this has gotten to this level is because we don’t see each other,” Robles-Gordon said. “Therefore [we] perpetuate this; we allow for the systems, and the biases, and the racist lens to continue with how we perceive each other.”

“Successions: Traversing U.S. Colonialism” is on display at the Turman Gallery at Indiana State University, 649 Chestnut St., Terre Haute, now through Feb. 16. The opening reception is set for Feb. 1 from 4-6 p.m. with the Artist Talk at 4:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit indstate.edu/cas/universityartgalleries/turman-gallery.

This story has been updated.

Contact staff writer Chloe McGowan at 317-762-8748. Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowanxx.

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