On Thursday night, faculty and students gathered in Kresge Auditorium for a presentation and round table discussion with visual artist and human rights activist Adriana Corral. Corral specializes in interdisciplinary, research-supported installation art, with a focus on global human rights abuses and uncovering untold historical narratives, especially those revolving around gender violence. Corral has received a number of honors for her work, including the Joan Mitchell Foundation Emerging Artist Grant and a fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution Archives of American Art and History.
A longtime admirer of Corral’s work, Visiting Assistant Professor of Latin American, Caribbean, and Latinx Studies (LACL) Irina Popescu spearheaded the event with support from her LACL colleagues, the Bowdoin Museum of Art, the Center for Inclusion, Diversity and Multicultural Life and the Latin American Students Association. Faculty from the English and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies departments also provided support.
For Corral, one of the most vital aspects of her work is protecting memories of human rights atrocities from erasure, which requires a constant quest for information to inform her work. She cites human rights attorneys, gender scholars, anthropologists and affected individuals themselves as some of her main influences.
“I’m constantly observing, constantly reading, filing things away in this little mental book that I have and also consulting and reaching out to experts in different fields,” Corral said.
Corral describes her art as “minimal in its form and maximal in its content,” referring to the juxtaposition between its visual simplicity and emotional weight. Additionally, Corral’s art seeks to emphasize the scale of human rights violations by appealing to the senses and creating a visceral reaction within her audiences.
“In these large scale installations, I’m often inviting an ambulatory viewer,” Corral said. “I’m wanting to tap into an array of senses, and that can be sight, touch [and] smell, just to name a few.”
Students and faculty worked in tandem to facilitate dialogue with Corral about her work and mission. A roundtable discussion with Corral followed her presentation, moderated by Sean Burrus, an interim curator and postdoctoral curatorial fellow with the Museum of Art, along with Mia Diaz ’24, Gail Saez-Hall ’23 and Popescu.
When Popescu asked Corral to comment on the intersection between her art and her activism, Corral recalled initial questions from her youth about the origins of human rights atrocities.
“Why is this happening? What are the structures that are allowing this to continue to happen for so many years?” Corral said.
These very same questions propel her forward in her work today, as they fuel her desire to gain knowledge and spread awareness.
Saez-Hall asked Corral about the psychological impact of her work. Although Corral stated that making art that calls attention to gender violence is emotionally taxing, she emphasized the importance of her artistic and humanitarian mission over all else.
“I have to be doing this work,” Corral said. “It’s essential … these are the narratives I’m interested in unpacking.”