Thursday, June 25, 2009

Layer Cake: Tales from a Quinceañera

image: Life on the Block, Adriana Lopez Sanfeliu, 2009

For young Latino girls, the Quinceañera is one of the most important moments in their youth. Like the Debutante Ball, the Cotillion and the "coming out" rituals that many young girls around the world participate in, the Quinceañera is uniquely Latino. Opening at Columbia College Chicago's C33 Gallery on September 8, Layer Cake: Tales from a Quinceañera is an exploration of the tension, delight, embarrassment, desire, joy, pride, confusion and beauty inherent in the Quinceañera. The exhibition features five to seven compelling stories – real or imagined – that speak to some facet of the greater Quinceañera narrative.

Image: Mexican Quinceanera, Javier Ramirez, Limon

Dating back to the Aztec and Mayan Empires and Spanish colonialism in the Americas (mainly Central and South America), the event ceremonially marked the time when a young girl would leave her family home to marry and begin her own family – around the age of 15.

Image: Mexican Quinceanera, Javier Ramirez, Limon

If asked what the Quinceañera means, a celebrant will likely answer: “I’m going from being a girl to being a woman,” but in today’s America of mixed moral, spiritual and cultural messages, coming-of-age is as complicated as ever. And so it comes down to the birthday girl, left to reconcile her own expectations and promises of womanhood with those of her family and community at large - rejoicing and lamenting in her newfound status.

Curated by Camille Morgan, Layer Cake: Tales from a Quinceañera has gathered artists who can capture this fantastic confusion through personal engagement - artists who can make transparent the layers of the poufy dress, the many-tiered cake, and the pomp and circumstance to reveal the truths beneath. Viewers will be drawn in and realize that this is not only an Hispanic tradition but a human one.

Image: Mexican Quinceanera, Javier Ramirez, Limon

Media is open to artist interpretation and can include painting, sculpture, photography, site-specific installation, performance and new media.

image: Juana Alicia, Don't Be So Tough, 2008

The exhibition will coincide with Columbia College’s National Latino Heritage Month (FOCO) and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations.


Interactive Exhibit Wall – Photo Collage
Throughout the course of the exhibit, students, the rest of the Columbia College community and the public will be invited to submit personal photos from quinceañeras they have attended, participated in, had, crashed, etc. This supports the exhibit’s focus – artist’s exploring the theme of the quince through personal engagement.

image: Road Kill Series, Adriana Carvalho, 2009

"I am hoping people will enjoy displaying their crazy, funny, poignant, ridiculous and beautiful photos, " says Camille Morgan, the show's curator. "I am sure everyone will love to view them too. The purpose is to make the exhibit feel like a party everyone is invited to...a place where their experience counts and is important to the celebration of Latina womanhood."


WHEN: September 8 – October 28, 2009

Artwalk Reception: September 10, 2009, 5-8pm

Official Reception: September 15, 2009, 4-8pm (to feature a real quince cake and Mexican food)

WHERE: C33 Gallery

33 East Congress Pkway @ Wabash

  • Curator Talks (by appt) at 312.369.7663 or
  • Shifting meaning of the quinceañera
  • The shifting definition of “tradition”
  • Religion and faith in terms of cultural ritual
  • Issues surrounding immigration and societal status
  • How colonialism affects “history”
  • Feminist issues in a patriarchal society

Image: Judithe Hernandez, 2009

WHEN: September 8 – October 28, 2009

Artwalk Reception: September 10, 2009, 5-8pm

Official Reception: September 15, 2009, 4-8pm (to feature a real quince cake and Mexican food)

PANEL DISCUSSION: Thursday, October 22, 3pm at Hokin Annex, 623 S. Wabash
Steve Caballero (Community Christian Church in Pilsen), Priscilla Mills (author of Quinceanera Connections) and Yolanda Nieves (Artistic Director of Vida Bella Ensemble).

WHERE: C33 Gallery, 33 East Congress Pkway @ Wabash

COST: Free and Open to the Public.

CONTACT: Camille Morgan at or 312.369.7663

PRESS INQUIRIES: Elizabeth Burke-Dain at or 312.369.8695


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