Gaspar Enriquez

One is born a Mexican American, but one chooses to be a Chicano. My work reflects a politically changed lifestyle that passes from one generation to the next—el Pachuco, el Tirilón y el Cholo—surviving poverty, wars, prisons and internal strife. The men and women who populate my paintings reflect the paradoxes that arise in the barrio—pride in place and language, a search for self-esteem and meaning in a landscape of poverty, and the fragility that comes with learning too much about life too soon. Soy Chicano.

Like in a hall of mirrors, my paintings are reflections of my childhood that keep repeating themselves over and over again in the barrio. I can see, for instance, in El Mauricio and Tirando tiempo, the reflections of the men I knew in the barrio as I wandered childhood streets in the '50s and '60s. Both these men reveal their machismo through their eyes and the way they hold their heads—an attitude of pride and arrogance that is so necessary for survival in the barrio—but El Mauricio stands in the sunlight and he is full of color and promise. The other is nameless. He stands in the artificial light of a prison, he is marked with the tattoos of la pinta, and he lives in a world of black and white. There is no hope for him, but still he carries himself with dignity.

María de los Ángeles y los angelitos negros is a paradox. She has a name and a place of origin, her world is back and white, but with a color of hope. Her eyes are full of sorrow and understanding and her tattoos of los angelitos negros on her breasts are symbols of hope.

La rosa dolorosa de mi vida loca is a metaphor of the senseless violence and unnecessary events that happen way too often in an environment that is defined by its poverty and lack of expectations. Still, La Virgen de Guadalupe hovers above all the tragedies of the barrio and extends her rose of sadness and forgiveness and blessing.

My work is a way of understanding where I come from and who I am.