Artist: Dalia Banuelos
Media: Mixed, photography, string, etc.
Gallery: Dr. Maxine Merlino
About the Artist
Dalia is an artist of hidden strengths. Though one may not see them unless they had seen and understood her artwork. A first impression may cause one to think Dalia is quiet, even shy. But she has hidden resilience and bravery that any could see in her works. Dalia has a beautiful display with an important message, but first I should tell more about the artist herself. Dalia enjoys doing “a bit of everything”, as she put it. She has many hobbies, and has even gotten involved in the metals program. Dalia has also become interested in another activity requiring great focus and skill, though not of a traditional artistic nature. She became interested in Martial Arts. Though Dalia’s true love is still photography. She isn’t particular to any time of day. She says it’s more about capturing the right subject when it appears than about the right lighting. As for subjects, Dalia’s favorites aren’t buildings or landscapes. Her favorite subjects are people. She loves capturing people in the acts of their daily lives unaware of what’s around them. She experiments with other subjects as well as unique techniques. For a number of pictures Dalia called “the blobs”, she first took an ordinary black-and-white photograph of something like a leaf-less tree. To make it her own and something more extraordinary, she used darkroom techniques to only develop parts of the image. The way this was done makes the final picture look like ink splattered across a white page. But looking closer at the “ink” splatters one can see that they are actually complete photographs that are only partially exposed. Many of her pieces are created similarly. Dalia’s works are always more than a simple point-and-shoot photograph. She works hard to add her own unique touch to each photograph. But for her diligent efforts, Dalia still has been denied her current goal; to be accepted into the BFA Photography program at CSULB. And this isn’t the first time. Dalia has been rejected twice now. But as I mentioned, Dalia shows amazing resilience. She turned her sorrow into a rush of creativity, creating her exhibit from the very pictures that were rejected. Connecting each photograph is a long, black string that also weaves along the ground and connects across one end of the exhibit in many crisscrossing lines. She wanted to show her sadness brought about by rejection, but also how despair can prompt a positive response in the right person.
Dalia probably had hundreds of pictures in her parts of the exhibit connected to the black thread crisscrossing the farthest end. I will therefore describe her more prominent pictures, as well as some of the design features that she created. Dalia’s first set of pictures I described above. They were the photographs of bare trees that she only developed streaks of. Each piece was unique, but they shared common themes. The original photographs were all very dark, leading to a sharp contrast with the glossy, white paper. There is an almost uncomfortable divide between the disordered pattern of the photographs themselves and the rigidly ordered way they are hung. One of the pictures hangs from the bottom corner by a single push-pin, causing a break in the precision of its fellow works. Other photographs displayed similar dissonance. One photograph was of jagged, intertwining tree branches. These harshly organic forms were overlaid on a much less natural background consisting of only a gray rectangle over the base of white paper. This picture was copied several times on the wall, though each time it was smaller than before. This, and the angles at which the pictures were hung, made the image appear almost to be tumbling into an infinitesimally small point. Dalia’s art all has a strong theme of chaos, and the focus of the gallery certainly displays this. The pictures first described are on the right wall, and so are not seen immediately. The focus of the gallery is actually the hundreds of inter-crossed lines of black thread nearly obscuring the farthest wall. The sharp, disorganized way they crisscross the space gives the viewer an uncomfortable feeling, like looking at broken glass or a life-sized spider web. Small photographs dot the thread, attached haphazardly and seemingly trapped in the lines and lines of black. In the center is a figure, bent over under the many strings above him. The figure seems almost the most out of place. The pictures and other design elements are sharp and unyielding., while the figure seems soft and pliable. The contrast adds to the aforementioned chaos that appears to be the strongest theme in the display.
Dalia’s work wasn’t meant to be hung on a wall and praised for its beauty. It was meant for a greater purpose, for other’s to understand its important message. Dalia finds it a bit ironic that her own work was, at least in the eyes of the BFA Photography program, a failure. Generally the CSULB galleries are meant to be a place of celebration, a place to hold masterpieces of artists chosen from the best. But as beautiful as Dalia’s works were, they were not seen as such by the Photography program. She was denied entry not once, but now twice. This would be a crushing blow to anyone, and Dalia said she wanted to scream in rage at the second rejection letter she received. But what distinguished Dalia from others was her actions following her heartbreak. Most would quit at this point, decide never again to attempt photography for schoolwork, since it would clearly be met with negativity. But Dalia took a different approach. Being now well acquainted with failure, she chose not to let it be a roadblock. Instead she made it her springboard. She decided to redefine the meaning of her gallery. Dalia’s gallery wasn’t a place to hold triumphant photographs adored by those in the program she tried so desperately to gain access to. Dalia’s gallery was the opposite. A place, as she put it, devoid of hope. A receptacle of broken dreams. Her works were only those that were rejected. The photographs that would never be good enough to get her into the program she wanted. Dalia rethought her gallery by using less conventional ways to display her art. She used black thread to border many of the photographs, but also as a work of art itself. Dalia told me that one might not realize that only a single line of thread was used in the entire gallery. Thought is surrounds many pictures and crisscrosses an entire wall. It is meant to represent fragility, as only a single cut could ruin the exhibit. The color black, of course, represents the somberness of the exhibit, the despair of failure. The exhibit as a whole was not just meant to be about failure, but about rethinking it. Seeing failure and using it for a purpose. In this case to give a new meaning to one of the most common ways to display art, in a gallery.
Synthesis/ My Experience
I suppose this exhibit would resonate with all of its audience, since no one alive can really escape some degree of failure. But at this point in my life I really felt it call to me. In high school I really knew nothing but success, and I didn’t realize this until I was thrown into college. I was used to being the top of my classes, never getting below a “A” on my exams with minimal study, and often being awarded for my good performance. That changed drastically in my college classes. For the first time I was studying for hours a day, tirelessly working for a passing grade on my finals. And I was still only average, a low “B”. I felt like Dalia when she saw her rejection letter. When I would see my grades on an exam I had spent hours each day studying for, I wanted to throw my laptop across the room. It was so frustrating. It was my first real experience with rejection, with failure, and I felt terrible. But like Dalia, I didn’t let my sadness be a wholly negative experience. Dalia turned her sadness and anger into art, and into a unique rethinking of a gallery as an art space. I suppose what I did was less clear. My positive reaction was as simple as learning to be at peace with my grades, as long as I knew I had done all I could. This seems like a simple lesson, and not really much of a change, but it was for me. It took a semester of hard work to realize that all I could do was my best, and that I could be happy with more “B”s than “A’s. I’m glad I could see this exhibit of Dalia’s, and that it is open for so many to see. With failure as commonplace as success, sometimes we need to be reminded to fail, so we can grow.