A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Constance Alexander: Artist Cintia Segovia Figueroa makes sense of the world through her work

“Sometimes I get myself into too many things and then I regret it.” Despite her admission, artist Cintia Segovia Figueroa’s tone of voice is calm, with an undercurrent of amusement at her lack of remorse for the curiosity that compels her to explore complex ideas.

A look at her summer itinerary reveals energy that crosses many boundaries. This month, Cintia, her husband and the dog climb into the RV and head to North Carolina. After that comes Mexico City and a visit with her parents. Along the way, she will be developing ideas for more creative projects.

“I am thinking of something I can bring back in my luggage,” she says.

Based on the only photo the artist took on a journey to Chiapas, Mexico, seven years after the NAFTA Treaty was signed, she imagines a future full of possibilities for the women portrayed. (Image provided)

Segovia Figueroa is jurying Art Through the Lens, an international, juried photography exhibition upcoming at Paducah’s Yeiser Art Center. In addition, she is thinking ahead to the solo show in the fall at West Kentucky Community and Technical College.

“I want to show new things, but I have a lot of anxiety about being back in the studio.”

She goes on to admit that part of her brain wants to rely on what is more comfortable than devising new works of art.

“You know how to study for an exam,” she explains. She continues, confessing that making something from scratch, while more demanding, is also more satisfying in the end.

Two years ago, when she accepted a position in Photography and New Media for the Department of Art and Design at Murray State University, she had just three days to pack and get on the road to Kentucky from Mexico City. At first living out by the lakes, she became intrigued by the tobacco trucks she saw on her daily commute.

“I was curious about seeing Latinos on the trucks and then at Walmart on Sundays,” she said.

She introduced herself to a crew and the workers let her photograph them. She asked questions and they answered, using a vocabulary that mixed tobacco terminology with their own language.

“They were all from the same town in Mexico. They all knew each other,” she declared.

This project, Persevering on the Other Side, is a series of photos and a video about the tobacco field workers, or tabacaleros, in western Kentucky.

According to Segovia Figueroa, “The images will depict these men at work, alongside an accompanying video with audio interviews that play as a voiceover with photographs of Mexico.”

Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray. She can be reached at constancealexander@twc.com. Or visit www.constancealexander.com.

A similar project by a colleague, Marisa J.Futernick, is entitled In the Shade. Focused on the Connecticut “shade” tobacco industry, Futernick’s work will be an installation or a video slideshow with original photographs, voiceover narration, and an oral history component.

“We got some interest to have a conversation with the gallery at University of Kentucky already,” Segovia Figueroa said.

The scope of her curiosity is projected in the works featured on her website.

One that catches the eye is Trotamundos, a six-channel video installation. It is an effort to make sense of the artist’s emotions, and how her journey from Los Angeles and Mexico City to Murray, has changed her.

Tacometer, a colorful LED monitor with speakers and lights, was inspired by her experiences at entry ports in the U.S. and Mexico. Selection of travelers for closer inspection is supposed to be random but in practice, it is not.

When the Segovia Figueroa’s Tacometer is activated by pressing a red button, a digital chicken foot wavers between options — American, Immigrant, Nationalist or Terrorist — accompanied by animations of stereotypical images associated with Mexican food and culture. Background music is a traditional Mexican song, La Bamba.

The mixed media photo accompanying this article is a reference to an insight Cintia Segovia Figueroa had in response to an event in 1994, just after the NAFTA Treaty had been signed between Mexico and the U.S. An indigenous group in Chiapas, Mexico, protesting economic globalization and in support of a participatory democracy, wielded arms against the government.

Seven years later, when Cintia traveled to that region with other teenagers, she and her cohorts were, “Naïve and full of ideals.”

They discovered, “The poverty in this border town was extreme. After a two-hour walk we crossed the border without papers to Guatemala. This photograph is the only one I took there,” she reports, adding that it took only a few minutes to realize the poverty was even worse in Guatemala.

“In the work 2564 Millas Al Sur, I imagine a future full of possibilities for the women portrayed,” the artist concludes.

According to Segovia Figueroa, her art helps her figure out her own emotions — what she thinks and understands — based on her experience and observations.

“I get a better idea of how I feel,” she says.

While going through the steps to become a U.S. citizen, she ended up answering questions that wove the topics of immigration and cultural stereotypes together. Some people, for example, remarked that she did not “look Mexican.” Another asked if she got married to get her citizenship papers.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment