Eva Struble strolls through the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's downtown location, explaining the layers of meaning behind the work currently on view in her exhibition, Produce.
“For a long time now, I’ve been making paintings to get to know the places where I’m living,” Struble says. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve become more interested in agriculture and labor.”
Struble’s interest resulted in a series of contemporary landscape paintings that focus on the merge of migrant labor and agriculture in San Diego. By including textile patterns from migrant laborers' hometowns in each piece, Struble puts the focus on the workers, their cultures and the lives they left behind.
Before she began work on the series, Struble forged a relationship with California Rural Legal Assistance. She tagged along with the nonprofit as they visited farms throughout the region and collected stories from the people working on the farms.
“It’s interesting to make it more social, have more interviews and have it really be about talking to people, rather than just doing research,” Struble says.
The paintings themselves are mostly acrylic—although a few do feature paper. ("Lemon Drop" is shown here.) Struble's process included using big sheets of dried acrylic paint that can be peeled up, cut out and collaged. It's the first time Struble, who's known for her experiments in screen printing and paper collage, has worked with acrylic.
The research and narrative included in the work is important to Struble, but as a working artist who teaches painting at San Diego State, she's fine with viewers who'll walk away from the show with nothing more than a new interest in the technique she used, or simply an appreciation of the works' layered aesthetic.
“I think there’s no wrong way to come away from them,” she says. “I don’t have one specific goal.”
The exhibition has been on view since early April and will be up through June 22. One of her favorite moments of the show so far was when a group of kids came in for a field trip and immediately started to find animals—a squirrel, a crocodile, a snake—in the abstract shapes in her paintings.
“I wouldn’t think that I want people to come away with animals,” she laughs. “But that was a wonderful thing, to have kids be excited about the work.
"It doesn’t have to be about coming away with the desire to make a more perfect world,” she continues, looking at a shape that does somewhat resemble a squirrel. “Maybe it’s just being interested in colors and surfaces too.”