I make work related to the human condition. I’ve worked in series form, where a body of work is related. For example, I did a series called the Green Series, all drawings on paper the color of American money. I’ve also done clowns, wrestlers and paper dolls. Most of my work stems from my subconscious. It has no agenda, although my concern for the state of the world is present occasionally. Having been born and reared in California, although my childhood was spent in Juárez, Mexico, I consider myself a Chicano. My childhood connections to Mexican culture are very strong and thus infiltrate my work. Anything from bad Mexican cinema, crime magazines, luchadores, ghost stories, poetic ranchera songs tend to be my cultural touchstones. I would like people to look at my work as if being let in on a joke, with the punchline sometimes being sweet sometimes unsettling, bitter, tender like life. A lot of the work stems from literary reference, anything from García Marquez, Juan Rulfo, Warthon to Flaubert.
I’ve always loved the Old Master’s drawings, the marks, choices, smudges they made are always revelatory and ageless. I love Orozco. One senses such intelligence and inquisitiveness about his work, his drawings especially. Kahlo has also been quite an influence. In her letters one gets a sense of her tenderness and despair.
I like to use gesso and acrylic to build up a ground. I generally draw with graphite oil pastel color pencil. The thing is not to know what was at hand. The best drawings come from left field and I like to leave undisturbed and unexplained.
Paper Dolls and Wrestlers
The paper doll became a symbol of sorts. They speak of manipulation, possession, placement and inflexibility. It also speaks of status and a non-existent access to power. They also speak of the idea of resignation to stay put and to be silent They’re like an Igmar Bergman with wrestling attire. The wrestlers appeal to me for their “faux mythic” quality. They evoke for me what Fuentes speaks of when he refers to Latin America’s bout with cultural amnesia.
Floating figures inadvertently come from a Goya painting of Peleles. They are giant rag dolls in some kind of Spanish pastoral ritual. They speak of longing, nostalgia for me. I see them as dream figures either floating pleasantly by or being abducted. One piece called At Dawn conjures up a migration free of boundaries and patrolling gangs.
Clowns can be corny subject matter. I like to draw them as being totall immoral and without shame. I like them shouting and singing their hearts out. I want them being self-confident, self-involved and self-centered. They’re very much like Washington politicians only my clowns are of Mexican descent and don’t like to hide it.
Someone told me about the sacred Mayan wells. Once I called it that the piece was resolved for me.
Is about Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. Emma Bovary was the unhappy heroine. She read the first magazines/fotonovelas. This is for the Mexican Emma and the simple farmer she never loved.
I’ve always been fond of that big Toltec head carved out of stone. There was a replica of it in Juárez in a museum that our school visited when I was a child. To my surprise, I remember sneaking a peek behind it and it had a hold in it and seemed to be made of plastic and probably made in Taiwan. Nevertheless, the perfect roundness o it and features have always remained with me. I did not set out to make a Toltec head wrestler. It was pointed out to me how much is resembled the Toltec head. Then I made the connection. Subconsciously things pop up in my imagesand are used consciously, or in this case subconsciously. The image has to do with lies, the need for heroes and what the lack of them brings. It’s about the use and misuse of power. In wrestling at least you’re told in advance who to cheer for and that hero is never going to veer from the script.
La Hija de Octavio Paz/Daughter of Octavio Paz
I reworked this image from the slide you have of it. The one you have is greener. I prefer this new one. Both work and the content is the same in both, although writing is incorporated in the new one. The image has to do with the notion of abandonment. It speaks of daughters, mothers, sons left to fend for themselves. I’m questioning if this is some kind of cultural plague, a generalization about Chicanos. I made her the daughter of Octavio Paz because he’s the great authority on the Mexican psyche. The caption reads above her, “My father did not acknowledge me until he won the nobel Prize. What an ingrate, the vato.” Here, Paz becomes also a generalization, having left his daughter, too.