Gisela Alvarez (2016) created an exhibit entitled “All You Can Carry” as part of her senior thesis in ARTS 499 taught by Gary Bolding. She leaves the meaning of this project open to interpretation as explained in her artist statement:
“I’m not one for lofty artist statements, mostly because I don’t want to direct the audience too much on how to interpret my artwork. The meaning behind my garbage bags is very much open to interpretation, or rather, what they are filled with is up to you, the viewer. I can, however, give you a place to start. Fill these bags with whatever you want, but I find it more meaningful to fill them with things that are hard to let go of. They are garbage bags, after all, which are primarily used to throw things away. Fill them with things of sentimental value. Fill them with things from childhood or things that are valuable to you; books, jewelry, trinkets, pictures, things your parents or grandparents have given you. Don’t restrict yourself to material objects. You can fill them with people or relationships; family, friends, in-laws, sweethearts, husbands, wives or emotions. Think of whatever it is in your life that you wouldn’t want to let go of or live without. Now, throw it away.”
Gisela Alvarez included a supplementary artist’s statement consisting of a dialogue with Andy Warhol, whom she attributes to influencing her artistic process, entitled “When in Doubt: What to do When”:
“I was having some trouble writing a statement about my work so I decided to channel the spirit of iconic American artist Andy Warhol. The following is the conversation that took place:
Gisela Alvarez: Andy, are you there? This is Gisela, can you hear me?
Andy Warhol: Uh, yes.
GA: How are things in the afterlife, Andy?
AW: Uh perfect, there’s silver everywhere and lots of red couches all lined up in perfect rows. They are all the same. No Valerie Solanas, no scars, and no hospitals.
GA: That sounds fabulous! Andy, I’ve summoned you because I was hoping to get your advice on writing an artist statement for my show.
AW: What is an artist statement?
GA: I was hoping you could tell me. I prefer not to explain my art. You see, I’m in my senior year of college and-
AW: Ah, that explains it. Why don’t you just tell someone to tell you what to write and then you just write that?
GA: I tried and it turns out I can’t. Something about academic honesty…
AW: Academia…What is your show about, Gisela?
GA: There are all these garbage bags, hundreds of garbage bags, and they are filled with hundreds of balloons, but the audience can’t see the balloons. They are supposed imagine what sort of things are inside the garbage bags. For instance, the things they own, or people, or relationships. Then they should think of them as garbage and they should think about what it means to let it all go and leave it all behind. Hopefully, they will leave with a greater understanding of the conflict one goes through when deciding on whether or not to uproot one’s life and what it truly means to do so regardless of the reasons. Really, I would say nothing at all to explain my work and leave it opened to interpretation. That’s what you did.
AW: Are all the garbage bags the same?
GA: Ya, for the most part.
GA: Right? I thought so, too. But, there is a rather large audience that truly hates them.
AW: Even better. Don’t pay any attention to what they write about you, just measure it in inches. Tell me, Gisela. Did you make all these garbage bag structures, yourself?
GA: Uh, yes.
AW: Oh, how awful! Have I taught you nothing?
GA: Actually, I didn’t blow up all those balloons, I mean, could you imagine? I had other people blow them up and tie them for me. Tying balloon knots can really wear on the fingers, ya know?
AW: Did you pay them?
GA: I threw a balloon-blowing-up party.
AW: Gisela, I am so proud of you. I have taught you much and I think that this conversation will help you to write a great artist statement, whatever that is, for whatever purpose it serves.
GA: Thank you, Andy, it has been such a pleasure!”