Rhizomes of Mexican American Art since 1848 is a digital gateway that will aggregate Mexican American art and related documentation from dozens of digital collections in libraries, archives, and museums located throughout the United States. The free portal will provide access to Mexican American art and material culture, from 1848 to the present, via any networked computer in the world. Once operational, Rhizomes will allow single-search access to an exponentially richer collection of Mexican American art and relevant materials than could ever be made available through a single library or museum.
An interdisciplinary and cross-institution tool is necessary since Mexican American art encompasses the pre-modern, modern, and post-modern, as well as engages in a visual and ideological play of cultures. Rhizomes showcases the artistic innovations and traditions of art-making not considered by mainstream American art history.
On a more practical level, Rhizomes will address factors that hinder full consideration of Mexican American art within mainstream art histories and teaching. At the most basic level, access and discoverability have been and remain issues, while isolation of art collections at museums and libraries has impeded research and public access. Although state-based aggregating portals, such as Calisphere, have improved discoverability and access, they are limited by geography. Additionally, small arts collections and organizations remain obscured from the broader public, while mainstream institutions that employ online cataloguing systems are often inconsistent with their use of search terms as well as how they segregate between “folk” and “fine” art. Rhizomes employs culturally-informed descriptors that enhance discoverability across geographic regions since 1848, the moment when Mexicans living in the American Southwest were ratified as United States citizens with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
Rhizomes will allow the general public to explore an emerging area of cultural and intellectual inquiry. Once operational, Rhizomes will facilitate this evolving field—across time and geography—and make possible new research yet unimagined.