‘Aquí Me Quedo/Here I Stay,’ an Exhibition of Two Latina Printmakers With a Feminist Lens

Aquí Me Quedo/Here I Stay BELatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of Olu Company/icavcu.org

One of the most fertile arenas for feminist debate and reflection has always been the visual arts. From the self-referentiality of Frida Kahlo to social actions such as those of the Guerrilla Girls, the arts have always been a creative battleground for those who defend gender equality.

That’s why exhibitions like “Aquí Me Quedo/Here I Stay” at The Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University are more relevant than ever.

The show brings into dialogue the work of Latina printmakers Sila Chanto and Belkis Ramirez, two artists who transformed the medium through a feminist lens.

Aquí Me Quedo/Here I Stay Sila Chanto BELatina
Sila Chanto, Retrato de grupo homerótico filial (Portrait of a Homoerotic Filial Group), 2002, Cromoxilography on cotton fabric, 192 x 334 cm. Image by Daniela Morales Lisac, for TEOR/éTica.

As the institute explained in a press release, the exhibition presents the Central American and Caribbean artists in a powerful dialogue, emphasizing their shared exploration of patriarchal violence, power, and conflictive expectations of the female form.

Opening May 6 and running through July 3, “Aquí Me Quedo/Here I Stay” features Chanto (Costa Rica, 1969-2015) and Ramírez (the Dominican Republic, 1957-2019) in a direct interchange, emphasizing their experimental printmaking techniques, embodied feminism, and political dissent, which define both women’s exceptional work.

“This two-person exhibition proposes, for the first time, a conversation between these two powerful feminist voices, stressing Chanto and Ramírez’s remarkable intervention into misogynistic violence and masculine control,” notes guest curator Miguel A. López, “Their work not only builds on their own visual language, which revolutionized printmaking and went beyond regional conventions-defying the local hegemonies of painting and sculpture-but also pushed past the dominant male culture and its gender-biased structures of valorization, giving us something wholly new.”

The artists, who began their careers between the late 1980s and early 1990s, used woodcuts with other types of prints and explored the spatial possibilities of large-scale woodcuts.

Both share an exploration of corporeality, power relations, patriarchal violence, and environmental issues from contemporary cultures.

Sila Chanto Installation BELatina Latinx
Sila Chanto. Installation view. Image by Daniela Morales Lisac, for TEOR/éTica.

Both were impactful figures in the art collectives of their regions: Chanto co-founded Grana, Taller de Estampa (1997-2000) in Costa Rica, a printmaking workshop that challenged patriarchal tradition and that challenged the patriarchal tradition of printmaking as it had been historically and academically imposed.

For her part, Ramirez was an active member of the Generación 80 Collective during the 1980s and later co-founded the Quintapata collective (2008-2015) in the Dominican Republic.

Chanto’s works emerged from her iconoclastic printmaking techniques, often working with the affective imprint of the body and its fragility. 

In contrast, Ramirez worked in a wood engraving that combined the body’s vulnerability through the clash of the public and the private and its delimitation of the individual. Her life-size works dialogued around gender stereotypes, sexual harassment, migration, and Caribbean bodies in general.

“Aquí Me Quedo/Here I Stay” is undoubtedly one of the most innovative exhibitions in terms of its catalog research and curatorship around a timeless subject in the Latin American feminine experience.