Wednesday, February 7, 2018

By Amanda Taylor

Rio Grande Valley, Texas The concept of folding is a three-dimensional exercise. Folding a piece of paper, for example, will conceal the other side, yet reveal a new transformation. For Raheleh Filsoofi, a UTRGV assistant professor of ceramics, the act of folding is representative of the complexity of the human condition.

Filsoofi is the curator of “FOLD,” an exhibit that unifies 13 female artists, philosophers and scholars to develop the concept of folding and exploring this conceptual metaphor in terms of feminism, immigration and interdisciplinary studies.

“The idea of ‘FOLD’ is based off a book by philosopher Gilles Deleuze called The Fold,” Filsoofi said. “My idea for this project was based off the concept of folding and what different meanings and metaphors could be found within varying disciplines.”

“FOLD” is a part of UTRGV’s 2018 FESTIBA, an annual week-long celebration of international books and arts, running this year from Feb. 26 to March 4 on the Edinburg and Brownsville campuses.

“FOLD” presentations will be held at three local venues: the International Museum of Arts and Sciences (IMAS) in McAllen, and on the UTRGV Edinburg Campus at the Visual Arts Gallery and at the Visitors Center. It will feature three different exhibitions (the art will change out with each new location) and one performance, with installations running through April 1. All the artists in the “FOLD” project are UTRGV faculty and visiting artists from around the country, collaborating on central themes with varying perspectives. 

UTRGV faculty, to include assistant professor of art history Dr. Riccardo Pizzinato, assistant professor of art history Dr. Katherine McAllen, and assistant professor in literature and cultural studies Dr. Cathryn Merla-Watson, will present on varying social issues relevant to the “FOLD” discussion.

“These artists are all from different disciplines and different cultural backgrounds, but they are all accessing this ‘FOLD’ concept through their own perspectives,” Filsoofi said. “One artist demonstrates the concept of fold through dance and folding her own body, while another artist uses textiles to represent immigration and how humans fold in different conditions.”

Turkish artist Sibel Kocabasi, of Palm Beach County, Florida, is showcasing artwork at the IMAS that interweaves varying tapestries. On a blanket that is 80 years old, Kocabasi has cut and arranged strips from the gold and silver emergency blankets immigrants are given at the borders.

“In my exhibition, two kids are sleeping on the tapestry, and they’re made from the synthetic gold and silver survival blankets,” Kocabasi said during an opening reception. “I am an immigrant, and though I wasn’t forced from my country, I can’t imagine having to flee a country because of war. This emphasizes how purity and beauty are folded into cruelty and loneliness.”

Floridian artist Giannina Coppiano Dwin features a piece splayed across the gallery floor at the IMAS. The image is a large dress made entirely of salt – representative of women and Mother Earth.

“The salt is conceptually tied to the ocean and also represents women, as mothers use salt every day to feed their families. But, symbolically, there are many layers to the significance of the salt,” Dwin said. “The ebb and flow of the ocean folds in upon itself, just as the material of skirts fold with a woman’s movement.”

Dwin’s installation called for 150 pounds of salt and took 12 days to create. The illusion of the sea foam at the bottom of the dress ties that concept of women and nature, specifically the ocean, into one powerful piece.

Digital artist Laleh Mehran, professor of Emergent Digital Practices at the University of Denver, creates visually elaborate spaces that focus on intersections between elements of politics, religion and science. Using a type of pendulum and needle concept, the artist drives conversations of political power and the fragility of time. 

“These are basically drawings with a needle and the sand just collapses and folds in on to itself,” she said. “There’s something really beautiful about that. It’s the concept of making a line and making your presence known, but also knowing that it, too, will disappear.” 

Mehran said collaborations like “FOLD” are important to represent women as individuals, not clones. 

“We may all be women, but it’s important to understand that we all have different perspectives,” she said. 


Filsoofi said she encouraged her art students at UTRGV to take part in the organizing of “FOLD” to gain experience in creating connections with artists and learning about different processes for exhibitions. And, her students have been tasked in creating projects based on the inner workings of the “FOLD” exhibition. 

“I curated this for my students, but especially for my female art students,” Filsoofi said. “I wanted this to be a source of inspiration, to show them how art can change lives.” 

Shari Flores, a UTRGV fine arts major, attended the “FOLD” reception to support her female peers and professors. 

“I came in support of Professor Filsoofi and the exhibition as a whole,” Flores said. “I thought it was important, not only as a female artist, but to be here in support of the arts at UTRGV.” 


“FOLD” will take place through April 1 and will be spread across three different venues. The schedule is as follows:

  • Exhibition One features artwork from digital artist Laleh Mehran, textile artist Sibel Kocabasi, mixed media artist Giannina Coppiano Dwin and mixed media artist Anja Marais, with exhibitions on display at the International Museum of Art and Sciences (IMAS) in McAllen through April 1. 
  • Exhibition Two features art from glass casting artist Linda Behar, artist Isabel Gouveia, ceramics artist Rojhaneh Hosseini, studio artist Dorotha Grace Lemeh, and artist and philosopher Amber Scoon. Exhibitions will start on Feb. 15 at the Visual Art Gallery at UTRGV on the Edinburg Campus. 
  • Exhibition Three gathers works from painter Misoo Filan, visual artist Gulia Huber, Sibel Kocabasi and singer Golnar Shahyar, starting Feb. 27 at the Visitors Center at UTRGV on the Edinburg Campus.
  • Panel Discussion - Unfolding Social Issues: On Tuesday, Feb. 27, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the UTRGV Visitor Center on the Edinburg Campus, participating UTRGV faculty will be Dr. Friederke Brühöfener, Dr. Young Rae Oum, Dr. Ruby Charak, Dr. Cathryn Merla-Watson and Dr. Mariana Alessandri. 

The performance pieces will feature artists Niurca Marquez and flamenco dancer Jose Luis de la Paz, 7 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Performing Arts Complex on the UTRGV Edinburg Campus. 

To learn more about the “FOLD” exhibitions, access the flyer with detailed schedule.




The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.