Layers of Womanhood: Barbara Gamiz

Layers of Womanhood

Interview by McKenzie Watson
Photos by Alex Barber

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As soon as she was selected for the Summer Studios residency at Project Row Houses, Barbara Gamiz knew she would focus her installation around women, particularly the women of the Young Mothers Residential and Young Mothers Employment Placement Programs. 

“I’ve been working for a long time with the ‘women’ theme,” Gamiz stated, “so it was a great opportunity to continue…especially with these wonderful women from the community.”

Throughout the residency, Gamiz spent time with the mothers from these programs, photographing them and utilizing them as subjects for her wooden sculptures.

“I asked them to think of something happy or something sad, and it was amazing,” Gamiz recounted. “One of them especially, when I asked her to think of something sad, she started to cry. I felt like I wanted to cry, too…This is getting into a very intimate part of their lives.”

Gamiz described her relationship with the mothers as a partnership. “I’m very grateful because they supported me a lot,” Gamiz said. “I really identified with them because all of us are mothers and all of us are working to be successful, to show the best parts of ourselves to our children… We want to be someone that they can feel proud of.”  

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Gamiz, who has a degree in graphic design, uses photography and sculpture in her installation. Speaking to the range of media she employed, Gamiz explained, “I love to work with material and to make 3-D elements. All the media that I work on is based on layers: My basic concept is layers. Between each layer, you can see there’s a story – like fingerprints; they stay everywhere, and you can see through the layers.”

In her installation, Gamiz created a large-print group photo of the mothers and a wall of highly emotive snapshots. “All of that shows their emotions, their state of mind, and that altogether we can go through all this,” Gamiz stated. “That’s why it’s called Women Empowering Women, because we can’t do it alone. We need a fellow, a sister, a friend, to support one another. I think that if these women raise their children with love and support, we will have safer communities, better cities, and a more peaceful world.”  

Gamiz created an immersive installation by combining her photography with large- and small-scale sculptural works representing women and themes of motherhood, home, and community. Elaborate, jigsaw-like sculptures stand in a gesture of mutual giving and receiving. However, the focal point of the house is a life-size sculpture of a tree, swallowing up the central smokestack of the row house.

“I put the tree inside the house because I wanted to show the relation between the material and the space that I was trying to create,” Gamiz explained. “The tree is a shelter for the birds and the squirrels; it’s a reflection on home. How do we want to make home for our children?  A shelter, a safe place to live, with nothing to be afraid of?”  

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Gamiz described her time at PRH as a layer in her own artistic process. “I really think that each step you make is like a layer you are living in your life… The house was transformed layer by layer, the installation – it’s all been a process, planning, making choices.”

When asked about her hopes for visitors to the installation, Gamiz said, “My hope is that they understand the meaning of this particular theme, to support and encourage women not to give up. Support this community and women from the community.  Don’t turn around and act like nothing is happening, like nobody needs help, you know?”  

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Barbara Gamiz is a graphic designer and artist who combines her training from Universidad Anahuac, where she majored in Editorial Design, in Mexico City with fine arts to create her paintings. Born in 1973 in Mexico City, her interest in learning crafts techniques began at a very young age. Barbara’s experience in graphic design led her to work in advertising agencies and also as a freelance designer. Gamiz believes that her background in graphic design is a very important part of her role as an artist. She combines her knowledge in graphic design with her techniques in art to create her artwork. Barbara’s history and training show her cultural influence in her artwork by using a high contrast pallet, graphic texture, and various layers.

Gamiz also participated in different painting workshops at Universidad Iberoamericana and in an informal studio class. She studied at Glassell School of Fine Arts in Houston where she received her certificate in painting and photography, and currently she is studying at University of St. Thomas of Houston. Some of her paintings were published in Swirl magazine in 2012. She participated in a group exhibition in Mexico City in 2010, with Contemporary Mexican artists like Ivonne Kennedy, Fernando Andriacci, Vicente Mesinas and others. Barbara has participated in juried exhibitions at Lonestar College campus Montgomery in 2011 and 2012. And other exhibitions in different locations.

The artist likes to experiment with different theories, techniques, and ideas to achieve her goals. Gamiz passion is expressed through her art making.