Root Division Studio Artist and Latinx Teaching Artist Fellow, Rebeca Flores, presents Purple Manguera in the Frank Ratchye Project Space to start off the new year. By combining the larger than life sculpture of a hose with an accompanying projected video, Flores encourages viewers to think about the relationship between objects used in labor and play — something Flores has contemplated after seeing her parents’ use of water as janitors following their immigration to the U.S. from a country with limited access to the precious resource. Flores encourages viewers to look beyond monotonous labor and get back in touch with play and the imagination.
Seeing Purple Manguera in person is quite the delight! Practically everyone has had an experience with a hose at one point or another. The ubiquitous hose can bring forth memories of playing in the front yard as a child for some or labor and hard-work for others. The scale, color, and softness of Purple Manguera, however, can redirect viewers’ thoughts to more pleasant experiences.
Join Root Division’s Exhibitions Fellow Jessica Punzalan in conversation with Flores about this multi-faceted piece.
Jessica Punzalan What was the process of creating each part of Purple Manguera?
Rebeca Flores I started playing with Purple Manguera during the summer, and I think the Cali, Fresno heat had a lot to do with the physical making of the piece. Maybe it was an attempt to escape the heat?
Place is something I work a lot with in my art practice, and I found the fabric at a shop in Fresno and the plastic tubes for the nozzle at an ACE hardware store. Even the cardboard tube that makes the nozzle is from Fresno.
The video was shot in my sister’s backyard. That was a very surreal experience, because it felt like the piece was being born from my hometown, so that process alone was really cool.
JP In the early stages of developing and conceptualizing this art piece, what were some challenges you ran into?
RF Oh, so many. One of the first ideas was to have the entire piece be 3D printed, but upon realizing that would cost the equivalent of a decent car, that was a no go. I’m happy that idea didn’t pan out, because conceptually, the piece is supposed to be played with, and the point is for it to be flexible like a real water hose.
To explore this, I taped a piece of yarn to my notebook and played with different shapes which led me to soft sculpture-vinyl fabric that is shiny and feels like rubber but also malleable.
The biggest challenge was getting the shape of the nozzle. I had a plan for what I imagined it would be–for example making it out of clay. However, while I was wandering around hardware stores, I found the cardboard tubes used for concrete pouring. I wouldn’t have made that discovery if I had stuck to my original plan. So the stages of developing were letting things go and letting ideas spark from being introduced to other kinds of materials.
JP What is the impact of your family and your youth on this piece and your art practice in general?
RF My parents grew up in areas where running water wasn’t a given, and they now work as janitors, so the physical item of a water hose is an essential tool for living and working. This piece is an opportunity to reframe how we interact with labor and an attempt to add play and joy. As an artist, I’m trying to reinforce joy and imagination back into our daily thoughts. And what is more present than work and the labor we do to stay alive? Maybe there’s play here too.
JP What was your favorite part of putting this all together?
RF Good question! I think my favorite part was filling up the hose with foam and batting and transporting it back and forth from the Central Valley to the Bay. It’s flexible, so the material bends, but it’s girthy, long, and wide, so moving it was funny, because I would be squishing it in my car like I was transporting clowns.
JP Did Purple Manguera turn out differently than you had originally imagined it? If presented the opportunity to show Purple Manguera again, how would you take it to the next level?
RF I let go of my own perceptions I had of how the piece should look. Sometimes I feel like pieces must be perfect. If they’re not perfect, then it’s not ready. This piece helped me create a more grounding thought of, “This piece was made by the human I am right now. Isn’t it exciting to have something that represents where I am?”
I would for sure show it again! I think the next level would be creating an installation using the water hose as if it is filling up a pool. Or maybe the manguera is wrapped around Paleta like a snake.
JP What would you like your audience to walk away with after seeing Purple Manguera?
RF I’d like them to feel welcomed to the piece–like they can interact with it. And if I’m being hopeful, maybe the audience wants to play with it too.
JP What has been your biggest takeaway from working within Root Division?
RF The creative freedom I was given and encouragement to pursue this large and wild piece has been invaluable! Thank you very much.
JP Is there anything you want to promote before wrapping this up?