Although my work has gone through many transitions in fifteen years of production, there are many aspects that tie my ideas together. Although it sounds like a cliché, I am attempting to find a middle ground between the abstract realm and the figurative/objective world--often turning to great literary voices to project my ideas in visual terms. I am most inspired by the Mexican muralist movement, the New York School, and late sixteenth century painting in France. I rely on my intuition to present my identity on all levels. Sometimes I believe that many of our Chicano artists are over-ambitiously attempting to manifest Chicano identity. One that often finds its truest or perhaps most honest manifestation in tatoos, low riders, on walls, fashions, etc. I am starting to see shifts in the Latino art communities. One that finally allows us to lay down our extreme self-identity (or occasional lack of) within the visual arts, one which allows us to express and define ourselves and our communities with sincerity and grace. We need to give ourselves the freedom to explore our ideas on many levels. This way, the visual dialogue becomes more inclusive instead of exclusive. This will allow us to continue flourishing and creating dialogues which become inviting to the art community and public as a whole. Today the Chicano identity is strong--thanks to many whom have struggled to let the Chicano voice ring and allow many truths be known. As artists we have the responsibility to borrow from the best of all worlds. Identity will remain.
Perhaps the most recent change I am sensing in the various Latino art communities I’ve lived in throughout the United States is the common struggle for Latina/o artists to explore and celebrate our unique identities without sliding into common pitfalls and expectations. It is a trap to create images that fall prisoners to the often shallow public and institutionalized perception of what Chicano iconography should be. The blatant homogeneous use and abuse of iconography such as the Guadalupe, Zapata, Cantinflas, la lotería, and El Santo, among many, have become all too commonplace. This is destructive in effect because the value of the original is often drowned. Yes, I believe Latino/a artists have the responsibility to cherish and manifest this rich heritage--one we are so lucky to have inherited. However, we must not let ourselves be prepackaged. We have the responsibility to prize change and innovation, to create our own iconography, to share our unique experiences, to invent our own myths, and to freely explore new ideas and techniques--even at the occasional risk of reaching outside.
Fall of the Master Builder
I commonly use various narratives from books, plays, and poetry as a point of initiation to my image-making. This particular painting of the falling master builder is one of several derived from Henrik Ibson’s play, The Master Builder. Here the patriarchal lead character, Mr. Soleness, falls from a steeple to his demise during the hanging of a celebratory wreath. This scene remains ambiguous in the play. Was the fall self-inflicted or was he merely too weak in his old age to achieve his final climb? Rather than illustrate a particular scene or story, my intention when I work like this is to capture the raw and dramatic psychological impact of a given text.
The initial idea of this painting came after reading a segment of Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I wanted the image to reflect the design and glow of German Gothic stained glass. As in most of my paintings, I wanted the figurative elements of the image to be life-size in order to vitalize the psychological tension. I was interested in where you as a viewer stand in relation to the picture. Are you part of the scene, or merely a distant observer? One of the reasons I like this painting is that it cherishes the rich color schemes of my Mexican ancestry. It reminds me of the splendid colors and smells of el mercado de Cuernavaca.