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Excess showcases the art and practices of Puerto Rico

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When artist Zaida Balmaseda is looking for supplies to create her next project, you won't find her at an arts and crafts store.

"It's very humble, simple materials," the Puerto Rico-based fiber artist said. "I'll have an idea and then I'll figure out what's around me and how I can transform that."

PRACTICES Fiber artist Zaida Balmaseda's creative work includes practices like meditation and contemplative movement. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF HAROLD J. MIOSSI GALLERY
  • Photos Courtesy Of Harold J. Miossi Gallery
  • PRACTICES Fiber artist Zaida Balmaseda's creative work includes practices like meditation and contemplative movement.

Balmaseda is one of eight artists whose work is currently on display at Cuesta College's Harold J. Miossi Gallery as part of the Topologies of Excess: A Survey of Contemporary Practices exhibit. The show attempts to document some of the emerging practices and happenings in Puerto Rico.

After Hurricane Maria in 2017, which is considered the worst natural disaster on record to hit Dominica and Puerto Rico, both gallery coordinator Emma Saperstein and the show's co-curator, Mariola Rosario, knew they wanted to bring awareness to the island. While Rosario grew up in Puerto Rico, she and Saperstein met while they were both living in Dallas, Texas.

"We were desperate to do things to visualize the ongoing crisis," Rosario said. "I wanted to talk about the land and the artists who work with the land and the relationship between materials and spaces."

Balmaseda is one of those artists working with resources from the island. Her installations, soft sculptures, and creative processes often include recycled materials, natural fibers, and dye made from vegetable matter. The way Balmaseda sees it, these materials become transformed through labor and time.

"The work is an invitation to consider what we have around us in life," Balmaseda said. "We need to slow down and consider all of these things. It's a representation of community and resources."

COMMUNITY As part of her process, fiber artist Zaida Balmaseda will invite others from her community in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to participate in mindful rituals with her. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF HAROLD J. MIOSSI GALLERY
  • Photos Courtesy Of Harold J. Miossi Gallery
  • COMMUNITY As part of her process, fiber artist Zaida Balmaseda will invite others from her community in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to participate in mindful rituals with her.

Her art also includes practices such as meditation and contemplative movement, which often involve other people in the process.

"My work is mostly about shared processes and shared practices," Balmaseda said. "I would like people to come and work together. Work for me extends beyond the physical object we're trying to create."

Ultimately Rosario hopes that Topologies of Excess will broaden viewers' thoughts and ideas about the U.S. territory, and make them consider the relationship between the two places that are rife with oppression.

"Maybe break down some stereotypes of what life on Puerto Rico is like," Rosario said. "We want to connect with the students and show them a life that is different than their coastal California reality." Δ

Arts Writer Ryah Cooley is living large at rcooley@newtimesslo.com.

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