Museum of Fine Arts Houston
The Mexican free-tailed bat is one of the most common bats in North America and it was here before the Southern States became property of the U.S. Just as Mexicans were also here long before. The wings are covered in patterns from the monarch butterflies which migrate from Mexico to the U.S. every year. The nose, fangs, Pre-Columbian aesthetics and ornaments were inspired by the Vampire Bat (Desmodus Rotundus) which is found from the North of Mexico to the South of Brasil. It is part of the myths of many indigenous people and Latin American folk tails; represented many times by the Tayronas of Colombia as an anomaly critter embodied by the shaman, Camazotz in Mesoamerica, and also known as Chupacabras.
Quite often immigrants are depicted like vampires, sucking the lives of others, but the truth is bats do a lot for the environment. They are the only pollinators of cacti in some regions and control pests. Shaman figures dressed as bats (Hombres Murciélago) and myths of Pre-Hispanic groups of Latin America inspired Dracula and pre-date Batman. In order to adapt and be accepted many immigrants choose to stop speaking their native language and pretend to be locals. This is why this bat looks like a flower from behind, so that it can merge with vegetation to protect itself. The constant search for home of displaced people, immigrants and refugees is symbolized in the eyes, bats are blind creatures and this one has homes for eyes, to represent the blind search for a place to live guided by the instinct for survival.
The name for my creature Pre-Columbian Unlooted Bat questions the provenance of the pre-colonial art housed in museum collections in the first world, as it is important to inquire who is the rightful owner of First Nations’ artifacts and try to amend injustices and wounds from the past.
Special thanks to Ann Sandberg who welded the structure and helped me throughout the process and Eric Granquist who generously shared his expertise on the use of materials to weather proof this amazing creature, it wouldn’t have been possible without them.