Patty Ortiz

My work in a broad sense is an investigation of the human experience. How do we balance within ourselves our spiritual beliefs, our thinking processes, and our feelings? As well as, how do we settle these beliefs, processes, and feelings outside of ourselves? And, finally, how are these conclusions manifested in the world around us? How do we settle the similarities that we find within our differences? And how do we settle the differences that we find within our similarities? It is through these questions that I make my work.

As a Chicana raised in San Antonio, Texas, my personal experience has been vivid. My father's family heritage comes from the poor indigenous Texas Indians with a strong background in woodcarving. He, being also highly analytical and a retired government employee at Kelly Air Force Base, spoke to me about the spiritual quality of life, the need to change the system within the system and acceptance. My mother on the other hand came from the high Catholic/Spanish class in Mexico. She spoke to me about rituals, the importance of education and love. My father who is hard of hearing and my mother who is legally blind since age 12, both taught me the importance of overcoming obstacles and thinking for yourself. Finally being raised with sayings such as "If you don't speak up, God won't hear you," "Work won't kill you, laziness will kill you," "Education is the only thing that will overcome discrimination," I have developed strong analytical processes, spiritual awareness, and the assertiveness to want to be apart of helping the world be a better place. Moving to Denver in 1980 was enlightening. I felt as if I had "crossed the border" into a world of separation either by economics, race or sex. My need to work with my community, understand my community and discuss it in my work became stronger.

Therefore, the questions my work mostly addresses are questions about established spiritual beliefs, established community systems and established discriminations. I enjoy creating metaphors around overlapping social and personal issues. These metaphors can manifest themselves into actual physical relationships such as the actual use of metal, rope, or fishing lures. Or the metaphors can manifest themselves as symbolic rendered images such as painted flowers, hand shadows or sky images. Either way, it is the relationships that are created between these metaphors that bring me to either humorous or sentimental conclusions.

I have always had an affinity to texture for its obvious sensuality and because of the direct relationship to our physical being. I have been known to burn, scratch, and poke my materials in order to address this physicality. I also do not deny and actually enjoy the formal concerns of space both illusionary and abstract and tend to use repetition, contrast, and color to directly support the metaphor being established in each work. I also tend to collage, nail and glue images and objects in order to create a kind of environment as well as reflect niches, ex-votos, and wall altar pieces of my culture.

Finally, through my work in the public art arena and other community projects, I am presently committed to developing projects that redefine the notion of "public" in public art. I am investigating the idea of creating stronger relationships between the artwork and its community by creating a "call and response" relationship between the community and myself through two upcoming community/public projects that the Colorado Council on the Arts has just funded. One called "Being Migrant" is an actual trailer made to look like a block of land with grass growing at the top and the walls showing the strata of the ground with its roots, etc. The inside of the trailer will be text that addresses being migrant. This trailer will actually migrate through neighborhoods and cities throughout Colorado next spring. It will appear in several public areas parked while people walking by can interact with it. The second piece is a piece called "La Llorona" based on the Mexican folktale. In this piece I will sacrifice trees and let them die in public places in memory of the total number of children that have died violent deaths in Colorado. I will have the same number of women dressed as "La Loronas" wailing amongst the trees. I will involve the community on different levels of this project from making of the cement form that holds the trees to creating milagros in response to the trees' death.

Fire In My Backyard

Based on a childhood memory where my father on our way to taking my mother to the panderia pointed out a beautiful fire in a neighbor's backyard. Later we found out that it was a cremation suicide. Through this experience I was moved by the preciousness of life. The beauty of this fire epitomizes the amazing passion that we have within us. This image also symbolizes an important aspect of my father. As my father pointed out the fire, so did he show his three girls the importance of life, living it well, respectfully and passionately. I placed the fire behind blades of grass squeezed between two plates of glass in order to show how we sometimes hide these passions in our backyard, or behind our facades because we may be scared to expose our difference and our uniqueness. I placed four motorized dancing dolls at the corners of the piece. These dancers resemble the small blond turning plastic ballerinas from jewelry boxes of my youth. But I made them dark skinned salsa dancers, a couple, a man and a woman expressing their passions and sensuality of love through dance. The sky connects all of the images together symbolizing my many childhood memories of lying in my backyard looking up at the sky—dreaming, thinking of endless possibilities and just listening to my breath. Again, my father taught us that the sky was the limit.

Fear of Heights

I created a series of burnt boxes after investigating termination rituals based in Mexican tradition. I based the termination series on Fear. Each piece is made in a 2' x 2' box that is burnt
symbolizing the end of the fear. In the center of the box is a small altar place that describes the fear. In Fear of Heights, I placed a clay figure on top of a group of precariously placed chairs to represent the mental anguishes we create for ourselves, as well as the flimsy mental foundations we develop sometimes. On the other hand, I gave the clay body wings made of copper wire that contradict the construction of the chairs in the first place. Because the little clay being can fly then and doesn't even need the chairs!