Enrique Arciniega Campos

Although I was born, raised and live in Houston, I have traveled extensively and have spent some time living in Mexico. My familiarity with traditional Chicano and Mexican culture, combined with a modern urban consciousness gained from living in the America’s fourth largest city, gives me a rich vein of ideas to work with.

I work on my art mainly for personal reasons, and I view the conception and execution of an art piece as a cathartic process. I often conceive individual works as a whole and the process of incrementally bringing out the pieces gives me a chance to exorcise my personal demons.

I have only recently begun to consider myself an artist, after having worked at numerous jobs and having raised a family. The realities of my previous existence did not let me concentrate on my art, and it was all too often relegated to a secondary role in my life. Once my children reached adulthood, I found that I have more time to spend on my art.

I work hard and sweat over each piece, so my artwork may take months, even years to complete. Works at various stages of completion are scattered throughout my home and studio, changing and growing over time. When they are finished they are like family, so I do not actively market them, which is why I do not assign them a monetary value.

One of the main reasons that I enjoy keeping my pieces is that that it gives my Northside Houston neighbors a chance to appreciate them. All too often, art is the domain of the wealthy, and my sector of society has too few artists that understand and can express our views and opinions.

Queen Bitch Goddess Success

This piece is a fairly complex one, both in its design and in its construction. Its symbols of popular culture intermixed with seriously provocative elements also lead to a varied response by viewers. Some people react with amusement, while others get upset by it.

The drawings that surround the central figure are Pre-Columbian glyphs of crying dancers and a god of war. The black and white photographs are of friends and members of my extended family. These are real people who are on the outside of the mainstream American popular and political culture.

The central figure is obviously that of the Virgen de Guadalupe, but she has been endowed with a new face, that of pop-singer Madonna. Her hair, makeup and vacuous expression, along with the cheap glitter she is adorned with, represent the gaudy and superficial aspects of popular culture.

The Virgen/Material Girl is crowned by and uplifted by representatives of U.S. political culture, which illustrates the power popular culture has over the political culture. Within her heart is the image of an incarcerated Chicano, who is periodically illuminated by a strobe lamp that is synchronized with an audible electronic heartbeat.

Worm Man

Worm Man is made from a piece of mahogany driftwood I found on South Padre Island. As a material it is appropriate to the subject, an old brown, decrepit man drifting through life.

When I made Worm Man I had just gotten out of the hospital after recovering from a severe burn. I had tried to go back to work doing construction but the pain in my joints made it impossible for me to do so.

For the first time in my life, my age prevented me from doing something important to me. Worm Man was my response to that: he is bent, but unbroken.

El Viejo

I feel an affinity for the Black people of Louisiana because they, like the Chicanos, are both victims of imposed miscegenation.

One year during Mardi Gras in new Orleans, I was hailed by this old man in the French Quarter. “Hey, Mister, take a picture of my and my dog!” When I started to compose the shot, I knew it would be a special picture.

Realizing I would need a long exposure to get the depth of field I needed, I set up the tripod. I asked the man to be as still as possible but the dog kept squirming. The man had to hold him still while I made the exposure.

I found the silver platter on the beach in Galveston and had it lying around my studio. The way the old man held up the dog demonstrated to me that it was the dog was a treasured companion, so I decided to present the image on a silver platter. The treasure theme is emphasized by the antique Mardi Gras beads surrounding the image, which are echoed by the jewel-like dog tags.

It is an active image, as the shadows, leash and railing combined with the geometric background draw the eye over the entire area of the image. It is also a staid and orderly image, because in the isolated world that consists of him and his dog everything is in order. The subject is dressed in his Sunday best, and despite this person’s meager resources, you can sense his quiet dignity.