Embracing the process in art and community - Define American

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Embracing the process in art and community

For artist Ana Armengod, art is both creation and destruction

The first year of the Define American Undocumented Artist Fellowship concluded on November 30, breaking new ground on the type of support available to these artists and the amazing work they can produce individually and in collaboration with their local communities. We are beginning the new year reflecting on the work of the incredible artists in the program and sharing stories of their partnerships with community-based organizations.

After many hours spent creating an ink pointillist image on the surface of a hollow egg, the artist gifts it to someone with one instruction: “Break it!” The recipient is usually horrified by the prospect of destroying such a beautiful and meticulously designed piece of art. But for artist Ana Armengod, art is both creation and destruction, and the Gifted Egg Project is not complete until it is also destroyed. Inviting another person into the project highlights the participatory nature of art, and that art is found as much in the process as in the finished product.

Ana Armengod is an illustrator and film artist born in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico, currently living in Braddock, Pennsylvania. Her work is tied to nature and its death, as well as the small details that get lost in the bigger picture. Focused on accentuating the overlooked and unimportant, Armengod gives magnitude to human reactions, history, emotion and the environment while questioning how these things push us to evolve.

When she is not exploring these themes in painting, film, illustration or another medium, Ana works with the Braddock Youth Project Gardening Team. The Braddock Youth Project is a youth employment training program that seeks to foster skills that will aid young people in advancing toward positive life outcomes, by providing meaningful and sustainable community development projects, generated and maintained by the youth. 

The gardening team explores food systems, food access and food justice, gaining a deeper understanding of what it means to be part of a group of urban, organic growers. The team also learns how to cook with the food produced at the garden sites through a series of food literacy workshops.

Teaching about growing and preparing food parallels Ana’s passion for artmaking. Young people have the opportunity to participate in the development of a meal from seed to harvest to cooking and eating: the full cycle of creation and destruction. The gardening team also selects recipes from members’ own cultures to connect them with their family histories of food, demonstrating their participation in a long heritage of creating meals. Not every plant grows as expected and not every meal turns out quite as it was planned, but alongside their plants, the participants grow too.

Ana’s emphasis in her art practice on the importance of the process of creation and not just the end product is the result of recognizing the therapeutic benefits of not holding on to things too tightly. Whether it be past traumas, bad feelings or an art piece that has not developed the way you expected, being able to let go gracefully fosters beauty and creativity, allowing both an art practice and a community to keep growing. Ana’s ability to also include others in her process has benefited both her art and the community she is part of.

The Undocumented Artist Fellowship is made possible through a grant from the Kresge Foundation. Read about more artist fellows! Want to see more great work? Support our 2020 artist fellows by donating today!

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