By Hellen Ascoli

Location: Italianate Garden

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Within Montalvo’s Italianate Garden and along the Great Lawn, you will find Caravan by Hellen Ascoli, an artist, weaver, and mediator living and working in Guatemala City, Guatemala and Madison, Wisconsin. Since her migration from Guatemala to Madison, Ascoli continues to ask herself, How do you rebuild and remember at the same time? How do you make sense of where you are, when you are so deeply invested elsewhere? Caravan is a reference for movement both internal and external, both physical and emotional. Today, “caravan” also carries political overtones meant to incite fear of the migrants at our southern border, while flattening the diversity of immigrant experiences into a single, consumable story.

Ascoli is most interested in material translations, in particular pacas, or the over-production of clothing and the cycles of fiber waste, as a metaphor for the relationship between Guatemala and the US. Today, the export of this fiber waste is threatening the textile tradition of Guatemala. Ascoli uses recycled thread from The New Denim Project and hand-weaves it using the back-strap loom, a historic tool of Mayan Guatemala, as a way to start anew. Ascoli’s installations, made of wooden assemblages and bundles of fabric and flowers, are designed to evoke the movable marketplaces found in the artist’s home country, where displays are built and taken apart every day. Each assemblage also carries a flowering plant, a symbol of joy but also of sacrifice and loss.