roots of my soul // raíces de mi alma // eni-k la-una
EXHIBITION ON VIEW: APRIL 17 to MAY 22
As a second-generation Salvadoran American of Indigenous descent, I long to connect to my Indigenous ancestry and heritage, which I have little to no knowledge of. These multimedia photographic-centered retablo ofrendas, inspired by Latinx and Chicanx aesthetics, illustrate this internal journey of connecting to ancestry and the qualities our souls create as one life and one dream living, listening, and thriving through the past, present, and future.
Sarah May (she/hers) is a biracial Salvadoran American, artist, writer, curator, facilitator, and community advocate in Salt Lake City, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah with her BFA in Photography & Digital Imaging and her MA in Community Leadership with an Emphasis in Art & Culture from Westminster College. Sarah coordinates and facilitates designated spaces of healing, connection, and empowerment for BIPOC communities, emphasizing Black, Indigenous, and Womxn, Femmes of Colour. She is a facilitator and coordinator for two groups for Womxn, Femmes, and Non-Binary People of Colour at the YWCA Utah; the Color Collective, an intersectional community group, and the Woke Words Reading and Writing Series. Sarah creates work exploring the intricacy of narrative by merging multiple mediums, reflecting on the collective human experience using cyanotype, film photography, found objects, textiles, and writing. Her work and process reflect her journey exploring identity as being cyclical and evolving, connecting to ancestry, and the idea of destiny and healing as intertwined.
This body of work started as a project called Identity Retablos I created in 2016, where I explored and sought to reconcile my identity as a biracial Latina living in a world where I was always in the in-between. I used the cultural art forms of retablos, ex-votos, and ofrendas within Latinx and Chicanx culture to influence my work, creating a narrative about my identity through photographic images, found objects, and handwritten text in a box/altar form.
When our family discovered our Central American Indigenous heritage through DNA testing, I found myself wanting to claim this part of myself that had been cut off from our family but not knowing where to start or if this was something I could ever connect with the limited information I had. I began to do research, talking with people, looking for answers, wishing I could find one place detailing all the solutions I sought. Through this journey, I had sacred experiences where I realized my ancestors, both genetically and spiritually, live within me. Decolonizing and healing my relationships with my mind, body, and spirit, I connected to the ancestors of my past, present, and future all living within me. The art pieces you see here are not about finding the answers and concrete information I was seeking at the beginning of my journey, but learning and understanding I already have the answers I seek, and I am enough just as I am. I come before you holding the roots of my soul, and whispering my mantra over my heart, eni-k la-una, Lenca for, I am listening.