Photos by Milly Correa Hernandez
Almost three weeks have slipped away since one of my On Belonging – community responses to home and the pandemic installations was stolen / removed from McDonald Park. Even after investigations by a Pasadena detective who called me three times, no one came forward with updates about what they witnessed in the park that day. Several local papers published stories about the theft, but nothing more is known about the October 3 “disappearance” of the ajrak and 100+ community cards.
Despite the crushing loss at McDonald Park, I pushed forward – the show must go on after all. On October 8 at ArtNight Pasadena, with help from Armory employee Milly Correa Hernandez, I reinstalled the work at Memorial Park for one night. After the festivities ended, thanks to my friends Alicia Vogl Saenz, Salma Qazi, Shaista Parveen, Usman Qazi, and my mother, I removed the installation before we drove away; I did not want leave the art up after the damage the first time. To learn more about the theft and damage, please read my October 7 blog post.
In the meantime, so far, my Victory Park installation on three smaller oak trees has stayed intact despite Santa Ana winds one night and passing rain another. Each afternoon, when I drive by the installation, I see people stopping to read the cards and examine the three trees with the San Gabriel Mountains in the background. The ropes are sagging a little, and the cards are curling, but that is the natural progression of life.
One day, I was at the park, knotting in a few more cards. A resident walked by and identified me as the artist. “It’s beautiful,” he said, pointing at the installation. “I’ve been admiring every day when I stop by these benches to eat lunch.” He paused and looked at me and then at the sign. “You know,” he added, “I’m from New York where one saw temporary public art in the parks every day. I just realized that I never see temporary art in Pasadena parks. You’re a pioneer!”
On Sunday, October 24, I will deinstall On Belonging – community responses to home and the pandemic from three trees in Victory Park. The beautiful cards filled out by friends, community members, and students will be sent to my archive at the University of Houston’s library, while the ajrak will be washed and folded in a box until next time. For friends who are close-by, you have until Sunday to check the work.
To learn more about my On Belonging project, please visit my website; the Pasadena installation was funded in part by an individual artist grant from the Pasadena Arts & Culture Commission and the City of Pasadena Cultural Affairs Division.
On Belonging is cosponsored by the Armory Center for the Arts with special thanks to Leslie Ito and the Armory team including Millie Correa Hernandez. Many thanks to Shaista Parveen, Salma Qazi, Usman Qazi, Jamie Asaye Lahey FitzGerald, Lee-Roy Lahey, Alicia Vogl Saenz, and my family Zakia Sarwar, René Saldivar, and Minal Saldivar – I couldn’t have created the installation if they hadn’t climbed ladders, wrapped and unwrapped fabric, strung fishing line on cards, knotted cards, created lighting, dug stakes in the ground, and done so much more. Thanks also to: friends who collected cards including Catalina Barrios, Michelle Calva-Despard, Delia Hitz, Kishwar Jaffer, Paul Little, Meher McArthur, Ana Mejia, Laila Saleem, Tamara Silver, Tahereh Shirazi, Teresa Garcia and students at Blair High School, and Bertha Aguilar, John Lynch and students at Pasadena High School; Rochelle Branch, Jayme Filippini with the Pasadena Cultural Affairs Division as well as Pasadena Parks representatives Talib Khalfani, Leonardo Chavez, Kenneth Graham for supporting the project.