April 04, 2017

Author: Christopher Cox

Category: Advocate

Art exposes garment industry injustice

"Machimon," a work of art depicting the harms of Fast Fashion by Rose Flores

“Machimon,” a work of art depicting the harms of Fast Fashion by Rose Flores

Art changes our perception. Occasionally, art speaks where words fail. Rose Flores uses her art to promote understanding and action in the garment industry on critical issues facing our communities and the world.

Rose encountered The Human Thread from a presentation at Divine Mercy Parish in South Milwaukee. Troubled by the content of the presentation, both the harm to the garment worker as well as the harm to creation, Rose said that she could not sleep. She said, “I wanted to tell people about the issue, but how do you explain it?” So, she decide to make something visual.

The lower left arm is weighted by chains, signifying low wages.

The lower left arm is weighted by chains, signifying low wages.

Rose and her husband dubbed the figure “Machimon.” On a mission trip to Guatemala, they encountered a Mayan deity, a god of excess and injustice by the name of Machimon. In a way, as we purchase garments to such excess and as the garment industry perpetuates tremendous injustice, the name seems fitting.

A few notable elements in the art:

  • The raised right arm has a gold papier-mâché figure representing the excessive profit from some garments. Hanging from the papier-mâché figure is a price tag that notes the average cost of a gown worn to the Oscars is $75,000.
  • The lower left arm is weighted by chains, signifying low wages, that have tags indicating the hourly wage in certain garment-making countries.
  • The face of the figure is a globe. Rose said that, for a while, she was uncertain what face to place on the figure, but a globe seems most appropriate as “I wanted to tell people it’s a world problem.”
  • At the feet of the figure are signs of the environmental harmed caused by the garment industry.

Rose insists that she does not have an art background, but that she enjoys it and has taken some classes. She adds, “It surprises me that I did this.”

At the feet of the figure are signs of the environmental harmed caused by the garment industry.

At the feet of the figure are signs of the environmental harmed caused by the garment industry.

All of the material for the art came from her home, all recycled. The main garment in the work of art is a shirt from her husband that was in their box to donate to Goodwill. The papier-mâché figure in the right hand is a project that a granddaughter made visiting an art museum.

The raised right arm has a gold papier-mâché figure

The raised right arm has a gold papier-mâché figure and a price tag noting the average cost of a gown worn to the Oscars .

Does Rose sleep any better after making this work of art? [The garment industry] “still bothers me a great deal,” she said. “When I try to talk to people, I get a glazed look sometimes. I can’t find the words to tell people how serious this is.”

Often, as injustice becomes routinized, we fall into what Pope Francis terms the “globalization of indifference.” Before such an enormous issue of injustice, what can a person do?

For Rose, “Machimon” was something she had to do. “Machimon” is a creative expression of art that exposes that injustice and hints at a way forward based on solidarity and receiving the other person as a gift. Art, indeed, can be an instrument for social change.

Since 1972, Rose and her husband Jose have lived in South Milwaukee participating in the parish that now comprise Divine Mercy Parish.