Anna O'Cain

Related Material

Anna O’Cain’s installation, There Are No Snakes in the Garden, is centered on two multi-image portraits of her grandparents, Harold and Madge, accompanied by four short audiotapes of stories about their life in Mississippi. The first story presents the US-Anglo monocultural viewpoint, as her grandmother admonishes her, “Lands alive, Anna, there are no snakes in the garden.” But Anna refuses feigned innocence. She has seen the snake, the line dividing the garden, and uses this knowledge to examine the contradictions, the paradoxes of her southern heritage. The piece presents a series of dualities. Her conservative, fundamentalist grandmother is the only family member to give her a vote of confidence to go north; her courageous grandfather, who teaches her to hunt and fish, cowers in the face of integration. The work suggests that maturity involves learning to navigate these dualities. As O’Cain recognizes that racism is based on fear, she begins to deconstruct its hold. The recognition of the vulnerability of her grandparents also allows her to respect their warmth and nurturing. Instead of crossing the border north never to return, she can work with the ambiguities of her past. Had she made the decision simply to repudiate her southern heritage, she would have maintained the dichotomy between South and North. Instead, because she situates herself amid the dualities, they begin to loosen their hold.

—Mancillas, Aida, et al. “Making Art, Making Citizens: Las Comadres and Postnational Aesthetics.” With Other Eyes Looking at Race and Gender in Visual Culture, University of Minnesota Press, 1999, pp. 124–125.

Curators: Ernest Silva and Mark Quint
Venue: Galería de Arte de la Ciudad, Tijuana
Organizer: Installation Gallery