The Rhizomes team has been busy with qualitative investigations of search strategies related to Mexican American art.
Co-directors, Connie Cortez (UTRGV) and Karen Mary Davalos (UMN), along with project manager, Mary Thomas, organized a series of activities directed at uncovering search strategies. Since conventional strategies obscure or render invisible the art attributed to people of Mexican heritage, our goal was to explore how these essential culturally-informed search strategies might improve the discovery of Mexican American art. Rhizomes not only recognizes the knowledge of experts (including those with lived experience), but it will also reconcile conventional codes and Euro-centric classifications with culturally-informed descriptions of Mexican American art. Such a process will also insure that novices and the general public will also be able to effectively use Rhizomes.
First Convening in October 2019With this in mind, we invited scholars, librarians, archivists, digital humanists, curators, and arts educators of Mexican American/Chicanx art to Minneapolis in October 2019 to gather and observe their search strategies as content-experts.
Sample from Visual ToolFor example, the image below was used to elicit qualitative data about works of art without an identified creator and objects created during the late 19th or early 20th century. We asked that the groups share terms, words, or phrases that they would use to describe the piece, along with any thoughts on how they might use it in the classroom. We encouraged them to consider descriptions for content, style, medium, history, theme, etc.
Word-Clouds for Immediate FeedbackAt regular intervals, we shared the results with the entire group to further enhance our findings. These conversations were very rich and proved extremely valuable. Using ChimeIn2, a classroom tool developed by Colin McFadden (UMN, LATIS), we presented the data in word-clouds, a text-image that gives greater size to words that appear more frequently in the source.
Our FindingsIn general, we found that content-experts use:
- period- and geography-specific terms (i.e. Hispano, tejano, tejana, and Californio);
- historical themes, time periods, or events (i.e. US imperialism, Manifest Destiny, and US-Mexico War);
- regional names of places (Aztlán, Nuevo México, borderlands, US-Mexico border, and The Rio Grande Valley);
- culturally-informed styles (i.e. domesticana, rasquache, mestizaje, borderlands, tortilla art, punkero) and American art styles;
- culturally-informed forms of art (i.e. santero, piñata, and paper fashions); materials and geographic origins of materials (corn, wood, and wool from Rio-Grande Valley) and;
- critical concepts (i.e. colonialism, settler colonialism, racism, and sexism).