The concept of Rasquache as used in arts is a have-not style where professional artists take advantage of the locally available, and mostly recycled, materials to develop beautiful items that are appealing and of sentimental value. Rasquache carries with it a negative connotation as an attitude of low class and impoverished (Mesa-Bains 34). It is the attitude of people who lack and have to survive on the meager resources available in society.
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The concept has been transformed into an artistic style, Rasquachismo, where artists deal with professional and material limitations in their work. The artists are forced to overcome their limitations using inventiveness and survival attitude in this new artistic movement. The artists in this movement do not try to shy away from the connotative meaning of Rasquache. Instead, they embrace the negativity in terms of lack and try to transform it into something positive.
They admit that indeed they are impoverished in some way, but that does not limit their artistic skills. They appreciate that they may not have the best of the materials needed for their work, but they demonstrate their desire and determination to use their innovativeness and creativity to transform that which is believed to be useless to a very attractive piece that carries sentimental value. In this essay Rasquache encompasses the following characteristics: In Rasquache there are the elements of a have-not, the use of creativity in transforming otherwise useless materials into valuable products, and the need for sentimental value in the product. Based on the principal elements of Rasquahe, in this work, I analyzed a hand-made quilt that is created from used jerseys and I argue that this quilt is a clear example of Rasquache.
According to Mesa-Bains, Rasquache in arts involves creating beautiful pieces of art despite the sense of impoverishment on the side of the artist (44). In the example I am analyzing here, the artist does not use complex machines and other equipment to make the product. Machines are often associated with the haves. However, the artist falls in the category of the have-nots. She has the skill to develop something special but lacks the equipment that can be used to facilitate the development of such items.
Instead of despair, the artist decides to use handcraft skills to develop something special. According to Ybarra-Frausto, Garza, and Romo, some of the most expensive pieces of art are often developed through long and handwork processes (46). However, there is a marked difference between handwork employed by individuals specializing in the artwork for the very rich and that which is employed by the Rasquache artists. The artists specializing in items for the very rich use handwork, not because they lack the capacity to use the machines, but because the nature of their work demands that they should not use the machines.
This is quite the opposite when it comes to Rasquache. These artists try to use the least expensive methods to develop their products (Hooks and Mesa-Bains 43). This beautiful quilt was handmade because the artist could not use expensive machines and equipment often used when making blankets. This is one of the most important aspects of Rasquache. The manual process also gave it a sentimental value that could not be possible is a machine was to be used.
The concept of Rasquache emerged from the negative connotation of the word Rasquache, which means impoverished or low class. In this style of art, the artist must first accept the idea that their work is based on the idea that they are not as richly endowed as other wealthy artists. As such, they try to use inexpensive materials in their work of art. Rosales says that the concept was promoted by artists who learned how to use waste materials to develop beautiful products (56). In our modern society, one of the biggest challenges that major cities have to deal with is waste management. The amount of wastes being collected from the industrial and residential areas in most of the cities is disturbingly large.
Artists who have embraced the concept of Rasquache offer a solution to this menace of massive wastes in the community. They try to recycle waste materials as a way of giving them a longer life and reducing the consequences of pollution in the environment (Hooks and Mesa-Bains 64). The quilt was made from recycled clothing. The jerseys that were used to make the quilt had been used by different people and we’re supposed to be disposed of.
It means that the materials were not just valueless at the time they were picked. They were going to be major pollutants once disposed of. However, the artist picked the otherwise useless and harmful materials and transformed them into a beautiful quilt that is highly valuable (Ybarra-Frausto, Garza, and Romo 114). The finished product was extremely comfortable and stylish even though the materials used were meant to be discarded. This is one of the most fundamental principles of Rasquache.
The process of making this product also involved using as minimal cost as possible. The artist did not use any machine in the production process. Instead, a costless process of using handcraft was employed. The only material that was purchased from the shop was the thread used in sticking the old jerseys together. The thread is an inexpensive material, especially when it is only meant to join different pieces of clothes to make a larger garment.
Pair of scissors, a ruler, a piece of chalk, and a needle were the other important equipment needed for this work. The piece of chalk and a ruler were outsourced from a friend who is a teacher at no cost. The scissors and the needle were readily available in the house hence they did not cost anything. The artist was successful in ensuring that the process involved was as costless as possible.
The concept of Rasquache emphasizes on using innovativeness and creativity to turn the commonly available materials in the environment, some of which are considered harmful because they are waste products, into a piece of art that is very attractive and of high value to the target client. According to Ybarra-Frausto, Garza, and Romo, before such an artist can start the work, he or she must have an image vision of what the end product would be and how the product will be viewed by the target audience (77). In this quilt, the artist wanted to tell a story. The story was about love for various sports by different family members.
My family members did not just love sports. They were athletes who engaged in various sports at a professional level. Basketball was the most popular sport in my family, as told by this beautiful blanket. However, other sports such as baseball, football, and soccer are also part of the story told in this garment. This quilt emphasizes the fact that members of my family have been very active in various sports. It brings out the sentimental value for the quilt. Owning this product helps me remember my family and the days when they actively participated in sports.
To the family members of whom these jerseys belong, this piece of art means a lot to them as well. Using such a blanket will awaken the memories of the glorious past when they were successful in the field. It will enable them to relive those beautiful days when they were the focus of large audiences. They will fondly remember how they did everything they could not disappoint their fanatics who would turn up to cheer them up in all the games.
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For the family members, the garment will bring back beautiful memories when they went to the field to support their loved ones in various sporting events. It will be a reminder to them that they belong to a sporting family, making it easy for them to support the young upcoming talents. These young talents will be motivated in their various areas of specialization to work hard and achieve success just like their predecessors.
It will make them very confident while in the field knowing that their fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, or cousins were at one point very successful athletes. They will try to follow their footsteps; with the quilt being a constant reminder of the level of success of these loved ones. As Sommers says, that is exactly what is expected of a Rasquache piece (43). It is expected to make normal or useless items supernormal. The quilt achieved this cardinal criterion of being a Rasquache. The used jerseys were supposed to be destroyed because they were worn out and they were useless. However, the artist realized that it was necessary to let the beautiful memory of the past to be retained in the form of a quilt. The jerseys had sentimental value to the players and members of the family, and the value was transferred to the quilt.
Rasquache is emerging as a popular philosophy in the field of art. Artists have come to appreciate that limited resources should not be a limitation to artistic practices. This philosophy emphasizes on the use of low-cost materials and processes to make beautiful and sentimental products. The only major resource when developing such pieces of art is time. The proposal presents an idea of a product manufactured from recycled clothing of family members.
The old jerseys were joined together to form a beautiful quilt. This quilt had sentimental value to my family members hence it is considered a Rasquache. It portrayed my family tradition, especially its love for sports. It was reminded every member of the family how actively we have been engaging in various sports at the professional level. It carried with it the beautiful memories of the time when all members of the family would go to the field to support one of our own in various local and international games.
Hooks, Bell, and Amalia Mesa-Bains. Homegrown: Engaged Cultural Criticism. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2006. Print.
Mesa-Bains, Amalia. Ceremony of Memory: New Expressions in Spirituality Among Contemporary Hispanic Artists. Santa Fe: Center for Contemporary Arts of Santa Fe, 1988. Print.
Rosales, Jesus. Thinking en español: Interviews with critics of Chicana/o literature. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2014. Print.
Sommers, Joseph. Modern Chicano Writers: A Collection of Crit. Essays. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1979. Print.
Ybarra-Frausto, Tomás, Carmen L. Garza, and Terecita Romo. Carmen Lomas Garza: Lo Real Maravilloso: the Marvelous/the Real. San Francisco Calif.: Mexican Museum, 1987. Print.