Looking at Isabel Avila’s art is like looking at a portal into the past. It is hard not to be mesmerized by the surreal photographs that are on display in the Gatov West gallery.
The studio art masters student’s exhibition titled, “What Always Was” features photographs of scenery in the Puvungna land juxtaposed against buildings on campus.
Her works consist of photographs of old Puvungna land that was taken on film and placed in hallways of various buildings on campus where the land used to be. The resulting photograph created the illusion of a ripped out tile floor of a building, revealing what used to be underneath.
“We realize how we just covered [the land] up. In a way it’s mesmerizing, but at the same time it pisses me off because this isn’t usually told,” said Antonio Hernandez, junior Chicano & Latino Studies major.
Along with the illusory photo-series, she included two portraits of women wearing their Native American regalia that she took at the yearly Pow Wow celebration on campus and featured a binder full of newspaper clippings of articles that have been published about Puvungna as well as other supplemental information about the sacred land.
“There is a lot of underrepresentation about the California Indian genocide, it’s so surprising how many people are out of touch with the history and cultural sensitivity of the land that we’re on,” Avila said.
Avila received positive praise on her exhibition from the steady flow of onlookers coming in and out of the gallery, which took her four months and a student loan of $6,500 to produce.
“Some people were like, ‘Wow you’re coming to school here and you’re making work about this place,’” Avila said. “They really liked the idea that I was really diving deep into this site and people liked the portraits they thought it was grounding, making it a living history and not so abstract.”
Some of her own personal favorites are her photographs “Knowing Water” because she said it is calming to her and she can stare at it for hours. She said she really enjoyed making “Constant Battles, CSU Long Beach/Puvungna,” because of the strong statement it makes against romanticizing white archeologists that disrespect the native land and people.
“What Always Was”, “Seasonal Patterns”, “Re[Visions]”, “Lineage Recognized” and “Queery” will run until Thursday March 28 from noon to 5 p.m., except for Wednesday when the galleries are open until 7 p.m. They are located between the Fine Arts 2 and Fine Arts 3 buildings on upper campus.