Irvine Fine Arts Center presents ‘Manos,’ an exhibition on the hands that feed

Installation view of "Manos" exhibition at Irvine Fine Arts Center.
(Courtesy of OfStudio )

The hands that feed us in Southern California are often hands of color, from immigrant labor picking produce in the fields to the kitchens of our favorite establishments. Hands can feed us in other ways too, a loving touch or a soft caress.

Irvine Fine Arts Center’s exhibition, “Manos,” makes space for the hands that feed.

Featuring sculpture by Santa Ana-based artist, José Flores Nava and paintings by San Gabriel-based artist, Kiara Aileen Machado, the exhibition reflects on what we do with our hands that nourishes us.

Installation view of "Manos" exhibition at Irvine Fine Arts Center.
Installation view of “Manos” exhibition at Irvine Fine Arts Center.
(Courtesy of OfStudio)

Virginia Arce, exhibitions program coordinator at Irvine Fine Arts Center, has been doing studio visits with both Nava and Machado for over a year and said she was surprised the two Southern California artists didn’t know of each other.

“I really felt like they were both humanizing their subjects in a very intimate and personal way,” Arce said. “I felt like there were a lot of similarities in their work.”

Nava is a DACA recipient and an educator, who was born in Mexico and moved to California at 12 years old. He earned a bachelor of fine arts and a master of fine arts from CSU Fullerton. He uses the medium of ceramics and sculpture to examine connections between the undocumented community and the products of their labor.

For “Manos,” Nava has slip-cast fruits and vegetables native to the Americas, and colored them in electric vibrancy.

“Jose was really interested in kind of pushing the idea of farm to table and discussions about migrant work and labor,” said Arce. “All of the fruits are native to the Americas and that was really important to him, in terms of their history. They are things of sustenance, but they are also things that we just have on our tables and maybe don’t think too much about where they come from.”

Machado also explores hidden figures through her bold and striking paintings. Her culture is central to her art, which studies the facets of intersecting identities.

Installation view of "Manos" exhibition at Irvine Fine Arts Center.
(Courtesy of OfStudio)

“Half of her family is from Guatemala and the other half is from El Salvador, and oftentimes she paints members of her family or people who are close to her,” said Arce.

Machado was born in Lynwood and received her BFA with honors in Painting and Drawing from CSU Long Beach. Machado works with oil paints, generously applied to canvas, making for paintings that feel ripe with texture. Figures are often obscured in their colorful surroundings, underscoring how they might be marginalized in their communities.

“She renders the figures kind of in between the plants and these decorative elements, being very symbolic of people who are hidden,” Arce said.

The seams of “Manos” are apparent, like the unfinished wood tables Nava’s work rests on, with visible lumber stamps that intentionally expose the viewer to the work that makes beauty possible.

“Even if you don’t have that background of knowing someone has worked in the field or worked in the kitchen, we are becoming hyper aware of the fact that the world we live in doesn’t so much run on magic and technology,” said Arce, “but on all kinds of labor.”

“Manos” is showing in Gallery 1 at the Irvine Fine Arts Center at Heritage Community Park in Irvine until Dec. 18.

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