Tennessee Folklife Heritage Award (2017)
Mexican needleworker Celia Garduño of Chattanooga has received widespread recognition for her brilliantly colored, delicately stitched textiles. Born in Tierras Coloradas, Michoacán, Mexico, Garduño learned needlework from her mother, Elvira González. By nine, Garduño was already executing punto de cruz (cross stitch embroidery), crochet and tejido (needlepoint). By fifteen, she was becoming proficient in the demanding art of deshilado (openwork).
Since arriving in Chattanooga in 1998, Garduño continues to perfect her craft and share her artistic heritage with others. She lives with a daughter and grandchildren, spending much of her time creating textile pieces for family, friends and fellow parishioners. Garduño deepens community and cultural ties between her church and its Hispanic parishioners through her art. Over the past ten years, she has handsewn and embroidered Mexican regional costumes for children to wear on Our Lady of Guadalupe Feast Day, infusing the event with traditional artistry.
Vivid patterns of flowers, animals, saints, and geometric designs abound in her handmade textiles. Her extensive knowledge of designs is evident in her vast array of completed works, totaling well over the hundreds: trunk loads of beautifully embroidered bedspreads, blankets, pillowcases; appliqué blouses and skirts; cross stitched aprons and Mexican regional costumes; delicate lacework doilies and tablecloths. Her sense of design and color is dazzling. Her collection of Mexican textile art is exceptional in skill, variety, beauty and sheer size.
Garduño mentors local Hispanic artists, and over the years her talents have been sought after and recognized in spite of her shy, retiring nature. She is one of 25 artists featured in Folklorist Roby Cogswell’s Tradition: Tennessee Lives and Legacies book and touring exhibition, a selection of some of the best living practitioners of folk arts in the state, and her work was selected for display at 2015 Tennessee Home for Christmas exhibition. She has taught workshops in Hispanic textile arts through Chattanooga’s NEA funded Latino Arts Project in 2012. Recently, her work was chosen for inclusion in “Spinning Yarn: Storytelling Through Southern Art,” a 2016 exhibition sponsored by the Crealde School of Art in Winter Park, Florida. Teresa Hollingsworth, Senior Director of Film & Traditional Arts with SouthArts says, “Garduño is a master of traditional Mexican needlework.”
Her impressive work is a tribute to her mother, her homeland, her family, her adopted country and state of Tennessee. Garduño sees her lifelong dedication to needlework as a precious inheritance. She is the first Latino artist to receive a Tennessee Folklife Heritage Award.
“Celia Garduño, Mexican Needleworker,” in Tradition: Tennessee Lives and Legacies by Robert “Roby” Cogswell, pgs. 48-53.