San Francisco group art exhibition examines manifestations of the diasporic Salvadoran identity in the United States today
SOMArts Cultural Center
Jess Young, Director of Communications
& Community Engagement
415-863-1414 x112 •

SOMArts Cultural Center Presents


Salvadoran immigrant artists reveal complex personal and bi-national identities and explore experiences of individual healing in the context of postwar period of EI Salvador, February 1–28, 2013

December 11, 2012, San Francisco, CA—  SOMArts Cultural Center presents Mourning and Scars: 20 Years After the War, a group exhibition February 1 through 28, 2013, curated by 2012–2013 SOMArts’ Commons Curatorial Residency recipient Roxana Leiva. Works of art in a variety of media, including paintings, video, textile sculpture and large-scale multimedia installations, explore the individual experiences of reconstruction and healing in the context of El Salvador’s postwar period.

Thirteen Salvadoran artists artists now living in California and New York draw upon their various experiences and family histories to create poignant works that grapple with the trauma of persecution and exile, and reveal complex personal and bi-national identities.

SOMArts Executive Director Lex Leifheit commented, “SOMArts has a long history of exhibiting work by the Salvadoran community and it is significant that this work has been recognized with a Commons Curatorial Residency. These residencies are chosen through a juried process and represent the highest level of support SOMArts provides through its exhibition program.”

Carlos Rogel and Victor Cartagena contribute works which focus on bi-national responsibilities. Rogel exhibits five glass, metal and canvas panels that investigate the lived memory of nutrition and the effect of Salvadoran politics in determining the health of the populace; pollution, water potability and human rights abuses arising from the corporate extraction of minerals are interwoven in these new works, created specifically for Mourning and Scars. Cartagena contributes “Wanted/Unwanted”, a pair of digitally printed banners highlighting the harm inherent in the reliance on cheap, immigrant labor to sustain not only the immigrants and their families, but also the economies of El Salvador and the United States.  

Carolina Fuentes, Juan Carlos Mendizabal and Josué Rojas use video to probe issues of cultural fusion and integration, and to examine the various manifestations of the diasporic Salvadoran identity in the United States today.

Carolina Fuentes combines the stories of war survivors with songs from Salvadoran composers in a tribute honoring the victims of the war and their families and in hopes of educating a new generation about the history of civil unrest in El Salvador.

Mendizabal creates an immersive physical space where the viewer is ushered through a multi-sensory experience, anchored by a video collage of stories that focuses on the artist’s childhood in El Salvador in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the perspective Mendizabal gained after immigrating to the United States and visiting El Salvador as an adult.

Josué Rojas examines the cultural costs of migration and showcases disparate identities, pairing paintings and video portraits to personify different aspects of culture through archetypal characters, including an exuberant leftist, radical Christian, veteran, deportee, mother and an assimilated American immigrant who chooses never to reflect on the past.

An installation by Beatriz Cortez features an interactive library exploring the role literature plays in the preservation and reconstruction of memory. Symbolic objects, such as books gift wrapped, preserved in resin or modified to become a flourishing garden, serve as metaphors for aspects of Salvadoran identity. The installation reference both the library as a secret hiding place of messages, documents, and money during wartime and the need to conceal important pieces of literature from government censorship.

For the opening reception Friday, February 1, 2013, 6–9pm, free admission, exhibiting artist Leticia Hernández-Linares performs audience-interactive music and spoken word, including an original song, “Hijas del Volcán,” or “Daughters of the Volcano,” inspired by Prudencia Ayala, who was in 1930 the first woman in history to seek presidential nomination in El Salvador. Ayala’s candidacy was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of El Salvador. During her performance the audience uses a Polaroid camera to populate a visual history of Hernández-Linares for a photo album within her installation, “Papeleo.”

A panel discussion The Salvadoran Diaspora through the Lens of Visual Arts, Literature and Politics, Wednesday, February 27, 6–8pm, free admission, features academic leaders from Central-American studies programs at California State University, Northridge who will publicly share their research and discuss Salvadoran culture in the postwar years. Their approach supports and expands the visual discourse of the artists in Mourning and Scars, bringing together aspects of fine arts production, literature and politics in the understanding of the Salvadoran democratization process since 1992. The event repeats at Sonoma State University on Thursday, February 28, 12–2pm.

Exhibiting artists include:

Tessie Barrera-Scharaga
Victor Cartagena
Beatriz Cortez
Carolina Fuentes
Plinio Hernández
Leticia Hernández-Linares
Juan Carlos Mendizabal
Roque Montez
Rosario Moore
Neil Rivas
Carolina Rivera
Carlos Rogel
Josué Rojas

Exhibition and all accompanying events are free to attend and take place at SOMArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan St., San Francisco, CA, 94103.

Mourning and Scars: 20 Years After the War Exhibition
February 1–28, 2013. Gallery hours: Tuesday–Friday, 12–7pm, and Saturday 12–5pm.

Opening Reception with Performances
Friday, February 1, 2013, 6–9pm, free admission

The Salvadoran Diaspora through the Lens of Visual Arts, Literature and Politics
Wednesday, February 27, 2013, 6–8pm, free admission

Mourning and Scars is one of four exhibition proposals selected to receive a 2012–13 Commons Curatorial Residency exhibition at SOMArts. Selected artists and curators receive curatorial stipends and a support package valued at over $20,000, as well as access to one of the largest and most beautiful gallery spaces in the heart of the city to expand their practice, engage the Bay Area’s cultural communities and turn vision into reality.

SOMArts (South of Market Arts, Resources, Technology, and Services) was founded in 1979 and operates the South of Market Cultural Center, one of four city-owned cultural facilities in San Francisco. SOMArts supports exhibitions, performances, classes and other collaborations that serve its mission: to promote and nurture art on the community level and foster an appreciation of and respect for all cultures.

For more information about upcoming events, space rentals and technical services, visit or call 415-863-1414. SOMArts programs are supported by the San Francisco Arts Commission’s Community Arts and Education Program, with funding from Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund and The San Francisco Foundation.

SOMArts Cultural Center
934 Brannan St. (between 8th & 9th)
San Francisco, CA 94103

(415) 863-1414
Artwork by Beatriz Cortez
Detail of installation "Books of Memory" by Beatriz Cortez
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