I moved to Boulder a little under a year-and-half ago, and with it brought a sense of starting anew. I was shedding a part of me that held onto a 30+ year cycle of anger and resentment. Much of my art reflected this inner turmoil and a desire to find a way out. Manga and Catholic aesthetics, dark themes intertwined with hopeful narratives. Born from Mexican and El Salvadoran immigrant parents, I grew up in Hollywood, Los Angeles during a time that included the LA riots, ‘94 earthquake, and the redefining of Chicano culture. For much of my art career I have downplayed that last element, but this next phase I am passionate about exploring it.
Chicano culture is having a resurgence thanks to social media, but when I was growing up in the 1980s, there were political forces at work that led my family to feel shame about their heritage. To fill the void, I found myself particularly drawn to Japanese culture, which was a dominant influence in my early works. Chicano culture is a uniquely Mexican American experience that for the longest time existed solely in Los Angeles and parts of Texas and formed out of the displacement of Mexicans from their land. More recently, I have seen Chicano culture spread far and wide, even to my beloved Japan. I was actually moved to tears seeing Japanese youth have a reciprocal respect for the culture that I had deeply internalized was shameful. I have since worked to see myself with new eyes, an acceptance that has eluded me for decades.
My move to Boulder has coincided with a desire to express a vision of acceptance of myself, and in turn, my community. It is a challenge for me even as I write this. I struggle to believe that I could be accepted. I worry that my lived experience will be unintentionally hijacked by an outsider’s third person experience. These fears manifest sometimes as hopelessness and other times as anger. Rage is close to the surface for me, as it is for many people who grew up in ghettos. I have now lived twice in the very neighborhoods that bred riots in Los Angeles. Yelling at your neighbors on the street, at the store, anywhere is just a normal day in LA. It is easy for me to be angry, but it is too venomous to have as a passenger.
Through Open Studios I wish to present a collection that tries to imagine art that would be made if my people did manage to create lasting change. A type of change that allows people like me to not feel doubtful or ashamed of our heritage like Aztec, Mayan, Pachucos, Cholos, or Chundos. A type of change that tells a story that is finally told by us, even if we may not like what we see. Sometimes my pieces are sad, other times happy, funny, or even angry. My people are not just caricatures that exist in Indiana Jones, Drake’s Fortune, or escape rooms with Aztec themes. There is a connection between who I am now and the Aztec/Mayans that suffered the most successful ethnic cleansing/germ warfare that ever existed in the world. Despite that our legacy did survive and I am here to represent.
Painting/Acrylic, Digital, Mixed Media
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