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Jovita Mercado
Honors, 3D4M

Árbol de Yakima is my rendition of a traditional Mexican art practice named “the tree of life.” These sculptures are normally made out of ceramics to tell an origin story. I made this one out of corn husk and to tell the story of essential workers in Yakima and discuss how Washington state is administrating its COVID-19 guidelines.

Within this sculpture, I placed a corn husk doll that is wearing a baseball cap holding a crate at the center. This corn husk crate has the Allan Brothers incorporated logo on it. Allan Brothers is an agricultural company in Yakima, Washington, that has been neglecting COVID-19 protocol. Employees are being forced to stand shoulder to shoulder sorting apples during this pandemic. In late April, 6 employees tested positive for the coronavirus. This doll represents fieldworkers and warehouse employees of Allan Brothers. Surrounding the doll are apples. Apples that we eat. Apples that these essential workers are putting their lives at risk to pick, sort, and pack, to sustain their lives in this system that does not care if they risk theirs. 

If you want to improve COVID precautions for agricultural workers: A) Call the Governor at 360.902.4111 and ask to leave a message. (B) Call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000. They will get the message to your legislator. My name is_________ and I live in _________. I am calling to ask that the Governor take immediate action to protect the lives of farm workers by putting in place mandatory, enforceable, permanent rules. Agricultural employers must provide safe working conditions and safe housing. Farm workers need immediate access to health care, food assistance, and paid sick leave. Farm workers matter. We must require employers to provide safe workplaces to protect the workforce and protect our food supply.

I’m Chicana, living on the hyphen of the word Mexican-American. My artwork critiques the United States’ exploitation of my ethnicity, while also evaluating my ethnicity’s oppressive gender expectations. I am specifically making work in response to the prolific amount of violence and abuse that has been occurring at the U.S./Mexico border, and other border-related lands like my hometown of Yakima, Washington. My work is attempting to humanize my ethnicity away from political jargon. My art is also looking critically at Catholicism and how it has manifested into an acceptance of toxic masculinity and maltreatment of women within my culture. I normally use clay for its ability to mimic organic figures, to produce human forms that demand empathy. However, due to the current pandemic and not having access to a studio space or kiln, I have been working with corn husk. I gravitated toward this medium because of its presence within my culture. I wanted to have a deeper understanding of my roots. The more I worked with it and did research around the object, the more I learned that Corn has a rich complex history. Corn holds the history of colonization and tells the story of what happens when capitalism and consumerism grab ahold of something sacred, ESSENTIAL, and exploit it. I utilize this layered and complex object to decolonize and alter the visual narrative of my culture in order to empower myself and possibly others with similar experiences. I want others to empathize and connect with my practice in order to assist in ending criminalization and marginalization of and within my community.