Fiber artist Consuelo Jimenez Underwood has made weavings about immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border for much of her career. Her father, of Huichol Indigenous descent, was an undocumented field worker in California. As a child she traveled throughout the state picking crops with her family and regularly crossing the border.
In the early 1990s, while driving along the 405 Freeway in San Diego, Jimenez Underwood became distraught at the sight of an “Immigrant Crossing” sign of parents running with a small child. She began depicting this motif threaded with barbed wire, caution tape, and yellow cotton into many of her artworks with the intention of one day weaving a version of the sign.
She created Run, Jane, Run! in 2004, after leaving a long career in academia—where she was tenured professor at San Jose State University in California—to focus on making art. When considering the vision she had for the work, she said in an artist conversation at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, “I’m going to do it [in] the Indigenous voice of the woman. The woman Indigenous voice did her statements with thread and needle. I will do the same.” The style of the artwork evokes backstrap weaving, a technique that dates back thousands of years in Mexico and is still used throughout the country by women weavers.
The title, Run, Jane, Run!, references the Dick and Jane reading primers for young children. This large-scale tapestry pays homage to the families killed on the highway and emphasizes their humanity.
This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World marks the 50th anniversary of SAAM’s Renwick Gallery by celebrating the dynamic landscape of American craft. The exhibition explores how artists—especially women, people of color, LGBTQ+, and Native artists—have crafted spaces for daydreaming, stories of persistence, models of resilience, and methods of activism that resonate today. In order to craft a better world, it must first be imagined. This story is part of a series that takes a closer look at selected artists and artworks with material drawn from exhibition texts and the catalogue.
Watch Consuelo Jimenez Underwood in a conversation about her work with Curator Nora Atkinson and hear from her in SAAM’s Meet the Artist video series.