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Corn people & tortilla fortune telling: Artist Jorge Rojas studies maize to discover his roots

Corn people & tortilla fortune telling: Artist Jorge Rojas studies maize to discover his roots

Gente de Maiz
Placed around a mandala, their placement recognizes corn as a spiritual source, giving and sustaining life. Photo by Jorge Rojas
Jorge Rojas
Project Row Houses artist-in-residence Jorge Rojas, center, works with community members to create "gente the maiz," corn people made out of masa maseca and water. Courtesy of Project Row Houses
Corn People
Each corn person has unique features and point to the importance of maize in Native American and Mexican cultures. Courtesy of Project Row Houses
News_Corn_April 2011
Gente de Maiz
Jorge Rojas
Corn People
News_Corn_April 2011

Food is complicated. 

We love to talk about it, the people behind it and its effects on our health, especially weight. Our modern society is so far removed from its sources that it is inevitable to forget that food doesn't grow on supermarket shelves and nor come automatically in pretty packages. Although there is a general movement to reconnect with food's origins, artist Jorge Rojas reminds us that it is also important to identify with its spiritual associations.

As part of Round 34: Matter of Food at Project Row Houses, Rojas has devoted his installation to the adoration of corn, bringing to life its divine allusions to Mexican and Native American cultures, while creating his own. After studying the flexible crop's references, especially at a time when it rules as a genetically modified organism (GMO), Rojas's work is interactive, thoughtful and playful.

Using masa maseca, Rojas brings the community together to create gente de maiz, or corn people. Inspired by a 1949 novel by Guatemalan Nobel Prize winner Miguel Ángel Asturias, Hombres de Maiz, his work explores issues of rituals, sacred traditions and commercialism's effects on ancestral beliefs and cultural identity.

His row house is comprised of three parts: corn people around a mandala, the "Tortilla Oracle" and a wall of thoughts, prayers and wishes expressed by visitors to the exhibition.

Project Row Houses Round 34: Matter of Food is on display through June 19.