Maria Emilia Steiner

Sense Us

Senior Project April 2015


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Florida Gulf Coast University
10501 FGCU Blvd, South
Fort Myers, FL 33965-6565
(239) 590-1000 or (800) 590-3428

“Cultural Identity” is often defined as the identity of a group, culture or an individual, influenced by one’s belonging to a group or culture.

  “Acculturation” is a cultural modification of an individual, group, or people by adapting to or borrowing traits from another culture; also: a merging of cultures as a result of prolonged contact.

“Bicultural Identity” is the condition of being oneself regarding the combination of two cultures.

The United States is a nation that historically has been built on immigration and has always been perceived as the Land of Opportunity. Most U.S citizens can trace family origins to other countries and many cultural backgrounds. The settling of several racial groups in a common territory can lead society into common grounds and establish good relationships by influencing one another. Immigration has been a constant source of economic and demographic strength. Immigrants are taxpayers, consumers, job makers, creators, and entrepreneurs.  I am not only interested in the changes that biculturalism can bring to the community, but also how Latino art has integrated itself into the mainstream of American society. Just as Latinos have gained increased distinction within American culture, Latino art has made significant contributions to the American art world as well.

Sense US is about how I perceive my role in American society. Culture and country are inseparable; I am a combination of Latin American roots with American branches. I have lived half of my life in the Unites States and half of my life in Ecuador so it has been a struggle to define the place I call home. This exhibition is an exploration of how to preserve my uniqueness as a Latin American woman and how my American culture has influenced me as an artist. Going through the process of creating this show, I was able to explore my two identities in depth and find my voice as an artist without having to choose sides. Home is where I can create art, where I can express myself freely, find community, and achieve meaningful relationships. In my work I have chosen to use personal iconography as a universal language. I am inspired by the result of the combination of indigenous and European styles that accentuate the richness and color of indigenous crafts in combination with the Baroque aesthetics of the Colonial era.

My work is a composition of various materials and methods. I like to work in mixed media because it opens many possibilities giving me infinite ways to finish my art pieces. This resembles my path living in the United States and the many opportunities that have been available to me. The gold comes from my Spanish background and inspiration from the Colonial Baroque churches that I grew up with. Their altars are extremely busy and beautiful. That is why the frames of my larger pieces are filled with shapes and textures. The hearts, the bodies and the roses are cast in plaster press molds which allow me to reproduce multiple forms which are then glued to a wooden structure. The clay faucets are made using both hand building and wheel throwing and in combination with the mono prints they explain my biculturalism as a personal journey of integration into American culture. The photographs silkscreened on the Plexiglas are representing the three main cycles of  my life and the importance of the English language. The iconographies used are personal symbols that explain my longing for Ecuador in relationship to my adaptation to the United States. I have chosen to represent myself with the icon of the rose as it is one of the main export products of Ecuador. The wing and the naked body represent the freedom of creation and self-expression.  The guitar is a symbol of my bohemian lifestyle, the mouths denote the use of the English language, and the heart symbolizes life.