Karina Aguilera Skvirsky
August 30, 2019
“La historia y comportamiento de esta especie (tumbleweed), me llevó a reflexionar y compararla con el movimiento migratorio que ha llevado a la gente desde Sur y Centro América hacia Norte América, en busca de mejores condiciones y mayores oportunidades para echar raíces.”
Juana Córdova, 2019
Ecuadorean artist, Juana Córdova, works with botanicals and site-specifically. Her exhibition at Artpace is no exception. Tumbleweed and achiote are her materials of choice in this exhibition, and can also be found in both the Texas landscape and TexMex cuisine.
Before coming to San Antonio, Córdova researched the history of tumbleweed, which originally comes from Russia and was brought to Texas in the 19th century via a shipment of seeds. They soon adapted, becoming almost native to the landscape (think about how ubiquitous tumbleweeds are in the Hollywood Western landscape.) Achiote, a spice and colorant, is native to the Americas. It’s a staple in Latin American cooking and was used by indigenous peoples before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors.
In Córdova’s hands, tumbleweed and achiote are manipulated and transformed from the banal to a potent material with poetic properties and political ramifications. Her most polemic work in the exhibition is titled Captives. Tumbleweeds are suspended in clear tubes by an airflow strong enough to keep them at eyelevel, but not forceful enough to blow them out of their containers. Essentially, they are trapped. The impetus for this work is the immigration policies of the current US government. Asylum seekers, and those trying to enter the US, being detained at the border are literally being put in cages while they await trial or deportation. Tumbleweeds, in contrast, don’t understand borders; they blow freely through the West Texas desert releasing seeds for new roots. This evocative metaphor is an example of her process. She gathers information about a specific location, studies and researches potential materials, and connects it to create socio-political content.
In previous works, Córdova has transformed found animal remains into sculptures that force the audience to behold the fragility and beauty of life through a critique of human indifference to the natural world. In Pleamar (High Tide), carefully cleaned skeleton bones of a whale she discovered on the shores of the beach near her home, speaks to the endangered status as a species. While in a more humorous work like Corriente Blanca (White Current), a set of headphones fabricated from shells encourages the audience to listen to the sounds of the ocean. 
 ‘Kids in cages’: House hearing examines immigration detention as Democrats push for more information, Washington Post, Maria Sacchetti July 10, 2019
 Juana Cordova A la Orilla, Artishock Revista Pilar Estrada August 11, 2016, Pilar Estrada Lecaro