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.