Portland Opera Puccini

Gina Herrera at after/time

The sculptor's show is the second offering in the collective's 'After Image' series. Herrera's multi-colored, abstract sculptures made from found materials reflect on the cultural resonance of discards.


multi-colored patchwork sculpture with two tufts of multi-colored hair
Gina Herrera, Relishing Bliss, 2020, 31″ x 21″ x 3, assorted found materials

Gina Herrera’s work, on view at after/time in Downtown Portland, plays on the cultural compost of war and waste, regurgitating soft rubble and residue into unpredictable new beings. Her show marks the second annual iteration of after/time collective’s exhibition series After Image, a series that probes the status of the “image” from the dual approaches of materiality and perspectivism. 

Herrera’s contribution to the series takes shape as a collection of sculptures that posit an alternative to the biopolitics of state-controlled media. This body of work both conjures and refuses contemporary frames of reference. Herrera builds with a confluence of cultural influences, including her active membership in the Tesuque Pueblo Tribe, her Costa Rican identity, and her experience as an Armed Forces veteran. She has witnessed the long-term impacts of war and waste abandoned by the US military during periods of past deployment—and these experiences continue to seep into her practice. She sculpts from a unique vantage point, ushered in with the passage of time and circumstance. Her dynamic sculptures, created with scavenged organic and synthetic materials, call timely attention to the unanticipated impacts of imperialism and consumerism. 

After Image featuring Gina Herrera, installation view at after/time, 2023/2024, Photo by Mario Gallucci

The abstract sculptures fill after/time’s industrial gallery space, with individual works each contributing to a vibrant collective conversation. The sculptures are coated with colorful fabric scraps and collaged with varied materials such as barbed wire, yarn, sticks, straw, aluminum pendants, beaded jewelry, calaveras and small toys. Certain sculptures are freestanding, while others hang from the gallery walls. All are lumpy, calling into the question what lurks underneath their dynamic veneers. Some have legible protrusions—the shape of cellphone case or a knife handle—but most look quite amorphous, like little graveyards for the composting of mystery matter. 

multicolored sculpture on a rock base, single spindle or branch appearance with loops at top
Gina Herrera, A Soaring Progressive, 2020, 80″ x 29″ x 13″, assorted found materials and steel

Herrera’s work A Soaring Progressive sits at the center of the gallery. A freestanding piece, it looms vibrant and tall with limbs of metal and knobby fabric patchwork emerging from its sparkling and brown encrusted base. Limbs twist upward and converge, forming the body and head of a deity with a sparkling eye of costume jewelry. A doll’s arm protrudes rigidly from one side of this figure while a tail of twisted paper tendrils falls from its opposite side. Herrera’s knack for humor shows up in these compositional choices. 

sculpture with multiple colors - vaguely anthropomorphic
Gina Herrera, A Scrutiny of Existence, 2019, 24″ x 10″ x 7″, assorted found materials

Scrutiny of Existence, another freestanding work, sits like a creature on its haunches, speckled with jewelry and little objects. A  Lego policeman peers out from one of its crevices, gesturing to the normalization of carceral culture in young minds. Above the policeman, a smiley button pin grins mischievously from the sculpture’s midsection, teasing at the bizarre figments of reality folded into this figure’s form. 

multi-colored patchwork sculpture with two tufts of multi-colored hair
Gina Herrera, Relishing Bliss, 2020, 31″ x 21″ x 3, assorted found materials

Herrera’s wall-hanging sculpture, Relishing Bliss, presents a stealthy critique of military culture as leveled through Native insight. It is decorated in Herrera’s signature patchwork fabric, with colorful tassels that feel reminiscent of regalia at a Pow Wow. Certain lumps of the sculpture have been adorned: topped with a tiny drum, a little blue car, a sparkly button, and a military pin. Herrera references both regalia and uniform with these materials. She recycles trite objects into new kinds of insignia, devoid of status but saturated with imaginativeness. In this decorated state, the work at once reveals how insignia can become superfluous when reduced to its objecthood and also how objects can take on such dramatic weight within a culture. 

abstract sculpture with multiple patched colors and branch-like protrusions
Gina Herrera, Distortion of the Divine, 2017, 26″ x 12″ x 2, assorted found materials

During this period of heightened geopolitical tumult, genocide, and escalating climate crisis, Herrera takes a long view, illuminating that humanity’s future is wrapped up in all that we heedlessly destroy or discard. Her sculptures speak to the significance of rubble left behind by war and residue of wasteful consumption. This forgotten matter and symbology will come back around with different forces, shaping what is to come. Herrera’s exhibition reminds us that to remember what has been destroyed and discarded is imaginative work, allowing us to reach into the unforeseen. 


Cascadia Composers May the Fourth


after/time collective is located at 735 SW 9th Ave #110. After Image, Gina Herrera is on view through January 20. The gallery is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6-8 pm.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Hannah Krafcik (they/them) is a Portland-based interdisciplinary neuroqueer artist and writer whose work emerges from ongoing reflections on social patterning and censorship, (over)stimulation, perseveration, and intuition. Their practices span dance, writing, new media, and sound design. Hannah continues to be influenced by their collaboration with artistic partner Emily Jones.
Photo credit: Jo Silver
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