Roberto Torres Mata is the Chazen Museum of Art's 2021 Panczenko MFA Prize winner

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Roberto Torres Mata is the Chazen Museum of Art's 2021 Panczenko MFA Prize winner
Please/Por favor, 2021, spit bite with aquatint, screen print, lithograph.

MADISON, WIS.- MFA candidate Roberto Torres Mata’s exhibition Untethered: Our Journey Beyond Borders takes the 2021 Russell and Paula Panczenko MFA Prize. The exhibition is on view in the Garfield Galleries April 6-May 14, 2021.

Visitors will be led on a journey through the exhibition, guided by a path of migrating birds. Archaic symbols impressed into handmade paper evoke indigenous cultures of the Americas, while the words of migrants themselves are recorded on linen sheets suspended from the gallery ceiling—a work made in collaboration with Dani Zelko.

“In my practice, I examine both human and animal migration as metaphors for one another,” said Mata. “It is my hope that my work raises awareness of the dire need to protect both migrants and the animal species that depend on migratory routes for survival.”

While specializing in printmaking, Mata uses a multimedia approach, including relief woodblock printing, wood carving and papermaking. By incorporating symbols and icons as metaphors for historical precedent, the artist aims to destigmatize migration. The work brings forth a sense of the realities around human displacement and the needs of animals during long distance movement that is necessary for their survival.

“As a university museum, the Chazen is afforded the opportunity to present work by emerging artists and to introduce discussion around tough topics,” said Amy Gilman, director of the Chazen Museum of Art. “Mata’s work invites our visitors to explore an important global narrative and perhaps see new sides of the conversation.”

The Russell and Paula Panczenko MFA Prize is offered annually by the museum in collaboration with the UW–Madison Art Department. The winner, who receives an honorarium, along with an exhibition at the Chazen, is selected by an outside juror; this year’s juror was Shannon R. Stratton, executive director of the Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists’ Residency in Saugatuck, Michigan.

“Perhaps more than any other time in my career, art is a popular site for commentary and dialog on the challenges that face global citizens and the planet,” said Stratton. “Mata treats the subject matter [migration], not only as an urgent political issue where livelihoods, families and continuity of community hang in the balance, but also as an enduring, shared narrative that has the power to bridge differences.”

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