Friday, December 5, 2008

Power of Five Challenge #1: Giselle Mercier @ Tianguis

It took a little longer than I intended, but here's a snippet from artist Giselle Mercier, whose studio is upstairs from Tianguis, a fabulous cafe featuring fine teas and contemporary Latina/o literature you won't always find elsewhere. The store is also a cosponsor of the amazing bilingual spoken word showcase, Proyecto Latina, which will celebrate the start of its fourth year on January 19. Tianguis is very convenient, located right across the street from the entrance to the Pink Line's Damen Avenue stop.

Mercier is both a teaching and a working artist. A graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, she now teaches there and at Columbia College. Mercier's own artistic work is grounded in her experience coming to the United States from Panama in the early 1980s. She often reuses the same objects in piece after piece. Thus, while each of her altarpieces or installations may not be permanent,the objects that make them up live on in her work over time. "I do a lot of work that has to do with rebuilding memory," she said. "If you become displaced, objects can give you back roots."

Mercier had a great time showing her work at Tianguis during Pilsen Open Studios. While we chatted over cups of tea, Tianguis' owner Irasema Salinas introduced Mercier to new friends. An old friend of Mercier's also stopped by, halting our interview for a long, welcoming hug. "It's been really great," said Mercier. "People have been asking lots of questions, being very open about their compliments."

Tianguis got its start as two foldout tables at an Open Studios location in 2005 and has supported the event ever since. But this year, the double whammy of Pilsen Open Studios and the Little Village Arts Fest in the same weekend was too much. "Having Little Village and Pilsen in the same weekend is tough. You can't do both," said Salinas. And she wanted to, since she's lived in Little Village all her life.

Giselle Mercier and Tianguis are the first installment in the Power of Five Placemaking Challenge, inspired by Placemaking Chicago.

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