Maria Gaspar is an interdisciplinary artist and public artist with a B.F.A. in Fine Arts from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. As a performance artist, she has performed at the Athenaeum Theater and the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center in San Antonio, TX. In 2007, she received an Artist Residency Award along with a Friendship Award through the Ragdale Foundation. She has exhibited and lectured on her visual work at various galleries and public spaces in Chicago, including Northeastern University, Polvo Gallery, the Hyde Park Art Center, The National Museum of Mexican Art and the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work ranges from performance to installation, photography and sculpture. As a conceptual artist, she works with issues of identity, body politics and gender. She derives many of her ideas from personal memories and research, while reconstructing cultural iconography and symbolic imagery through the use of traditional and non-traditional material.
In 2006, she completed a large collaborative weaving project with Jolom Mayaetik, a Women’s Weavers Collaborative in Chiapas, Mexico. She is a Core Artist with the Chicago Public Art Group and an Illinois Arts Council artist and has led mosaic murals and other permanent work at Chicago sites including the Garfield Park Conservatory, Marwen Foundation and Tarkington School of Excellence. Her community work includes developing arts programs in the Little Village community of Chicago with the Little Village Community Development Corporation and teaching for various arts organizations around Chicago.
In 2007, she received an Abraham Lincoln Fellowship Award to pursue her MFA degree in Studio Arts at UIC, starting in fall 2007. Exhibition and performances in 2007 include participation in Escultura Social: A New Generation of Art from Mexico City with Maria Allós at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, a collaborative installation show at the National Museum of Mexican Art entitled, “Dialógo”, and a performance piece entitled “Memorial Gestures,” curated by Ernesto Pujol at the Chicago Cultural Center.
Maria Gaspar Artist Statement
Growing up in a place like Chicago, amidst the murals and graffiti works, was my first exploration into public art. Looking up at the large, community murals that would catch my attention and trying to make out its symbols and meanings were part of my everyday travels around the city. I was lucky enough to have worked on my first painted mural as a young teenager and have continued making public art since.
Through leading various projects around Chicago, I have had the opportunity to combine teaching with the creation of art, using various public spaces and collaborators to make community based work that allows a neighborhood, a school or a community organization to take ownership of their surroundings with pride.
Besides using mosaic as the dominant medium, I have also used concrete engraving techniques to produce permanent walkways. I have long been interested in the use of performance art and interactive, public interventions that bridge community members through dialogue and conversation and have begun to collaborate with other artists in the creation of these projects.
Public art is continuously expanding, broadening and pushing boundaries. It is a means to communicate with all who are confronted by the work, challenged by the work, or comforted by the work. But, most importantly, it impacts the lives of those who participate in the creation of a work of art- the parents, children, artists and community leaders that visually represent their ideas, vision and hopes for a stronger community.