Leah Mata Fragua
2020 Eric and Barbara Dobkin Fellowship
Chumash dance dress, 2017. Collaboration between Leah Mata Fragua and Cara Romero. Photo courtesy of the artists.
The School for Advanced Research is pleased to welcome Northern Chumash artist, Leah Mata Fragua as the 2020 Eric and Barbara Dobkin Artist Fellow. Fragua is a practitioner of traditional arts, and her work is primarily utilitarian, however, she also uses her art to spread awareness about the devastating effects of climate change. As a member of a coastal Indigenous community, she has witnessed severe environmental degradation firsthand as it has substantially diminished the resources that her community relies on. She fears that one day many communities may lose access to their natural cultural resources altogether. She explains that, “for many coastal Indigenous communities, the ocean is a way of life, a complex ecosystem, and landscape that extends well beyond the shore, connecting us to communities near and far. The gifts we receive from the ocean are what we use to sustain ourselves as yak tityu tityu ‘The People.’” California Indian arts, and Fragua’s work in particular, are an extension of place. Her work brings attention to the intersection between traditional arts and climate change with the hope of inspiring action.
“I believe my work can serve as a platform for protecting cultural resources by bringing greater awareness to the environment where I collect materials. In addition, my work provides a narrative about the importance of tribes to [ability to] exercise our sovereign gathering rights. As stewards of our land, we are responsible for protecting the resources we need to create our beautiful works.”
While in residence at SAR, Fragua will draw from a skillset that includes generations of traditional ecological knowledge, lapidary work, feather work, and fiber art techniques to create a traditional Chumash dance dress. This dress will visually represent rising ocean levels and the increasing severity of wildfires. Additionally, the work will incorporate many traditional materials such as bark, elk hide, abalone pendants, feathers, natural dyes, and various types of shell and pine nut beads. Fragua states, “I am continually reminded that there may be a time when I am not able to pass down these art forms because our cultural resources have become limited over time. In my work, I add as many place-based details as I can in order to transport the viewer to a place that is otherwise distant and abstract. I convey the beauty of these vulnerable landscapes to inspire viewers to help protect and preserve the places they love.” Fragua will be in residence from March 2, 2020, to May 31, 2020.
Leah Mata Fragua: Artist Talk
May 21, 2020 @ 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm. Join us online via YouTube Live. (simply head to sarsf.info/youtube at the start of the event to hear her presentation and join the conversation). Leah Mata Fragua (Northern Chumash) presents on her project to create a Chumash dance dress and shares her reflections on the devastating effects of climate change as well as the impacts of these changes on the resources that her community relies on. Join the School for Advanced Research to hear about her experience as the 2020 Eric and Barbara Dobkin Native Artist Fellow. Fore more information, click here.