Alfonso Valenzuela

Maps and cakes with figures of different races chained by golden links and bridges. They form surface decoration to beautifully contaminated cakes. Cakes of trash, of the Rio Grande contaminated with nuclear waste, lead, arsenic, and mercury. Mapping the entrance of one culture or the exit of another. Rather than being divisive, these maps and cakes mark more a borderlessness or blend of cultures. The indigenous, with the Western, to form contemporary heirs of that culture--the Chicanos. The flavor of the Mexicano, of that particular ambiance that isn’t afraid to mock death, to live la vida loca, to be religiously profound, or apparently contradictory. Domestic appliances scatter the landscape of the flute player of Hamil. He challenges one to compare our life full of worthless gadgets that fall apart with the essence of life. Compares timeless monumental sculpture, or a cave, with electricity. It’s a Rubic’s cube showing the order between the European, the Indigenous, and the contemporary. In the center, the womb of earth--Coatlicue. Her consort Tlaloc at her side and Mictlantecultli, “the great equalizer,” stand as testament to our great inheritance. Not archeological gifts but alive and feeding the contemporary. These deities who never cease to die promote a better understanding of who we are, of where we came from. Tlaloc warns of our disrespect to Mother Earth by our dumping of syringes and chemicals into the water. It is our ancestry reclaiming its rightful place. They are our own images, represent our traditions, our values, our religious passion and a modern point of departure. Suddenly, the scene begins to melt and Camelia can be seen approaching. She reveals her breast and coquettishly insinuates wanting sex but immediately asks for a dollar. Ta, Ta, Ta, shoots everyone that passes by him with his finger, as he envisions the Vietnamese enemy lurking in the concrete jungle. Invisible figures cast long shadows on this lazy overcast desert, yet the hassle and bustle of every day life doesn’t stop. Coming down the street, pulling his cart comes everyman being led by the determination to reach the carrot. What does the homeless schizophrenic think? We all meet at la lucha libre. The barber, doctor, grandmother, preacher, socialite, cholo, and la muerte catrina can all be found at a wrestling match. There is the good guy, and the bad guy, but also incredible characters derived from the Mayan, Aztec, and contemporary. There are santos who fight blue demons, alushes (Mayan elf), midgets, effeminate wrestlers, female wrestlers, and those beautiful masks derived undoubtedly from our past. It’s a sport worthy of praise. We have various world titles yet this sport is only occasionally mentioned in the media. La lucha libre contains a fantastic, almost surreal experience, where the spectator can become the gladiator, fighting, sweating in the ring. Or it can be a place to be seen, to cuss at and get rid of one’s anger. It’s the one place where it seems acceptable to do just about anything. La lucha libre is an area that seems always transforming, bringing out our ancient people’s spirit and energy.

Although most of my work has in common great pride and a positive outlook on Mexican American culture, each painting contains a unique point of view. Lucha Libre III, for instance, began with my reaquaintance with Mexican wrestling. My initial inspiration was fed by childhood memories of Mexican wrestling movies I had seen while growing up in Denver, and current wrestling matches I had witnessed in the El Paso/Juarez area. However, the most important inspiration came from a Mayan sculpture of a wrestler I saw at the I.N.B.A. Museum in Juarez, Mexico. This sculpture triggered a connection between wrestling of the past and the present that I had not related before. Afterwards, I was able to feel the presence of the past through the masks contemporary wrestlers wore, and through the whole wrestling ambiance. At the same time, Lucha Libre III gave me an excellent chance to comment socially on the wrestling culture of this area. As a result, I was able to portray different social types, one or two famous people, and friends. Finally, the painting on another level pays tribute to the legend “El Santo” and Mexican wrestling in general.

Sold To The Highest Bidder on the other hand, is done through an aerial perspective which I tend to use in many of my paintings. Contrary to Mantegna, some Renaissance perspective, and Baroque space, I use a bird’s eye view. Moreover, this painting was initially inspired by that familiar saying, “He can grow up to be the next president.” I heard it during some T.V. show commenting on the next election. However, what they failed to mention was that it takes much more that a saying to become the next president. It seems you first must belong to the proper social group, the proper race, the proper sex gender, and have attended the proper schools. In addition, one needs to have at least $64 million to start a campaign. Otherwise, as the painting depicts, one is relegated to being the gardener or maid of those in power. Sold To The Highest Bidder is also a parody of Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. In particular the part of God touching Adam. In this case, however, it resembles more what in Mexican politics is dubbed “El dedaso.”

When the concept came to me for Camelia, Ta, Ta, Ta, y Y Ramiro I didn’t know it would be so impacting to some, or that the figures would be so recognizable. Many people were aware of these homeless people as I found out, and shared a connectiveness with them as I did. My main motivation for this painting, however, came from my desire to pay tribute to these homeless schizophrenics I saw each day on the way to school. At the same time, I sometimes would fantasize about what they must be going through and this led to the creation of this painting with its strange perspective, color, and imaginary people. Another motivation was the need to reveal whatI perceived as society’s unattendedness of these people. Camelia, Ta, Ta, Ta, y Ramiro features a lady who everyone calls Camelia and who always provokes people through sexual advances. At times she could become violent when not given money, but most of the time she is gentle. Ramiro on the other hand, was a transient who always smiled at people and said good morning as he picked cans off the streets. Ta, Ta, Ta, on the other hand was obviously a Vietnam veteran. He would always point his finger at anyone who passed by him and yell “Ta, Ta, Ta!” literally shooting anyone that went in front of him. Thank goodness he never got hold of a real gun. Camelia, Ta, Ta, Ta, y Ramiro also contains a figure of a man carrying a horse on a cart. For me it stands as a metaphor of reality. It is every man ceaselessly trying to reach the carrot, sometimes at the expense of reason.

Borderless came about as a reaction to my environment and others’ pre-conceived ideas about this so-called border region. As a resident of this area, I wanted to proudly depict the different shades of cultural diversity that exist here and what I perceive as a union between the past and the present. The scene takes place directly over the Rio Grande on the Santa Fe Bridge that connects the U.S. and Mexico. There is a charro playing music, a cowboy, a Tharahumara woman with her child, a Pachuco, a Cholo, tourists, and an Aztec among others. They testify to the make-up of this area on any given day. Some come from far away places, others are locals. Yet they break the concept that this area has a border or is limited in some way. In fact, this area is a port that facilitates the transference of ideas, peoples, and goods. Borderless then stands as a metaphor of Chicano culture. Of a neutral ground not limited by one culture or idea.