Familiar Faces spotlights the work of three recent CCA graduates: Juan Huerta Coello (BFA Printmaking, Fall 2020), Kirra Hellfritsch (BFA Sculpture and Jewelry & Metal Arts, Fall 2020/Spring 2021), and Jose Ugas (BFA Sculpture, Fall 2020). Through sculptural objects and photography, these artists explore the complexities of common emotional and psychological struggles, especially as they relate to one’s identity, and how such internal feelings manifest externally. Rather than rely on traditional forms of portraiture, they do this by using found materials and craft techniques to insinuate or mask the body. Created as a way for the artists to process their complex feelings on topics ranging from immigration to anxiety, these works reveal connections between internal strife and how one presents oneself in the world.
Born out of highly personal experiences and often inspired by intimate relationships, these tactile works are at once specific and universally relatable. Huerta Coello’s Fatiga Laboral (Labor Fatigue) series alludes to the ways in which a job can control someone’s life; a relentless weight that reduces their mental and emotional capacity for anything other than work. Hellfritsch’s wearable sculptures, made using traditional jewelry-making techniques and sentimental fabrics collected throughout her life, translate moments of anxiety into powerful yet unconventional suits of armor. Ugas uses his own likeness as the source material for his glass sculpture in Familiar Impressions, which acts as an ironic mirror, designed to encourage personal reflection on how one’s feelings or beliefs can be unknowingly distorted by inherited traumas. Taken together, their works suggest ways in which one’s identity is inextricably bound up with one’s physical and mental wellbeing.
At this time of great uncertainty, compulsory isolation and increased hazards in so-called essential workplaces continue to wreak havoc on the mental and emotional wellbeing of many, to say nothing of the physical toll of the Covid-19 virus itself. These artworks represent common challenges facing individuals and families across the United States and globally that long predate the pandemic but which the pandemic has thrown into sharp relief. The works in Familiar Faces thus offer a respite—an opportunity to feel less isolated in one’s experience of such feelings by bearing witness to how these artists process and share their own struggles.