Lisa Gordillo

Trenzando (Braiding)

Cotton thread, Guatemalan quetzales, U.S. dollars, wood

8" h x 9' w x 9' d


Description: This piece nods towards the long, violent links between U.S. and Guatemalan histories, and the economics of genocide. Traditional weaving braids are organized in a grid of twenty (20 is one Mayan number for “a body”) and balanced on wooden supports.

Artist Statement

My work often asks, What is the space between us?  And: What might it take to cross it?

This work began as I was trying to understand U.S. complicity in violent international acts. Trenzando aims at U.S. intervention in Guatemala. Our histories are "entrelazadas," intertwined, in a way that is often unacknowledged, sometimes hidden outright, and increasingly resonant as human rights crises increase.  

My early training was in theatre, and I’m entranced by the distance we can cross connecting text, object, action. Here, textile braids stand in for human hair; children’s toys connect the play of violence and the destruction of war. I love how a soft thing can speak about something very, very hard; how an interrupted space can throw you off balance.

I’m interested in the hidden histories – things to unearth, things dormant, untold, or buried. (Who does this burying, and what can I do to stop it?)  This need to uncover? It follows me, as I follow the story and try to tell it.


Lisa Gordillo is an artist and writer based in Houghton, Michigan. She began as a theatre artist: painting, designing, and (very occasionally) performing. One of her favorite credits continues to be her participation in the 2011 Prague Quadrennial, where she worked with Rolf Abderhalden Cortez’ group of artists on Kotcich Street, connecting abandoned places with the city center. She was the director of The Eve Luna Project, a collaborative arts ensemble that she founded inside of a Midwestern women’s prison, where she and her collaborators wrote and produced original works of theatre (Letters of Rozsa, Now and Then My Country, Purple Desdemona), art installations, and events to connect incarcerated and non-incarcerated communities. Gordillo is a founding member of the Guatemalan-based project, Brazada. The project, whose title roughly translates as, “as far as outstretched arms may reach,” is a sculptural and poetic retelling of Guatemala’s civil war, and U.S. complicity in its most destructive acts. She collaborator Hugo Gordillo were recent artists-in-residence at the Santa Fe Art Institute’s 2019 “Truth and Reconciliation” residency. Gordillo’s work frequently examines the distances between us, and how we can cross them. Gordillo teaches sculpture and design at Michigan Tech. She loves dogs, trees, and the color pink.