Analee Fuentes

I was born in San Diego, California, and was raised solely by my mother (a first generation Mexican-American). My father (of Cherokee-Irish descent), was absent.  My mother worked in a sweatshop from the time I was three; she was an expert seamstress who painted and worked with ceramics and jewelry at home. My maternal grandfather was a tailor by trade and a painter in his spare time, so my appreciation for art was an early development shared by my immediate family.  My early childhood years were spent in the economically impoverished neighborhoods of Barrio Logan and National City where hidden wealth lies in a rich ethnic diversity and strong sense of community. It was there that I was exposed to the art of graffiti and community murals. I have two half-sisters, one, an active artist whose projects helped to form my sensibility of the nature of visual experience and how political beliefs can manifest in a visual medium. This period was the 1960s - when civil rights and feminism were constantly in the media, and a very formative time for me. A few years later it was the Viet Nam war, and although I did not have brothers associated with the war, all Americans were painfully aware of the divergence of opinion regarding our involvement. It affected my thinking about the nature of war, politics, and also art. It was then that I was becoming more visually literate and began to make art.

As a Latina, I have come to the realization of how fully my aesthetic is grounded in the Mexican Baroque. I continue to make this discovery about myself, over and over again. I love things that are ornate, excessive, overdone. I look at fish, or water, and have the same visual experience as looking in awe at a 17th century Mexican church. It's a difficult thing to describe but is as close to a mystical experience as I have had.

When I moved to Oregon in 1981, my experience was one of cultural isolation.  There were few Mexicanos here and my familiar connections to a larger Latino and African-American community were absent.  Over the past 24 years of living in the Willamette Valley, there has been a pronounced change in the demographics and hence, in my isolation.  With 11% of Oregon’s population now identified as “Hispanic,” I recognize with great delight, that my culture of origin has come to me.

The Northwest has a distinct cultural history laced with stories of immigration and racial movements; most emphasize the Eastward route led by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. My awareness of the influx to our region is different, focusing more on the Northwest movement, the ongoing movement from Atzlan,  the current “Oregon Trail.”  It is more like the swirling of a living river than a wagon train.  I necessarily view my surroundings from my perspective, in the here and now. Here is where Sasquach meets El Chupacabra, where Chalupas are not little boats, but something one eats at Taco Time.

My hope as an artist is that I will continue to have new and honest ideas. I continue to believe that beauty and humor are powerful tools that can affect policy and positive change, and I continue to be influenced by the rich iconography of traditional Mexican art.

My upbringing informs every stroke of what I paint.  What I paint is an attempt to synthesize my experience, and honor my ancestry. Historically my work has been grounded in figurative painting. It's a wealth of inspiration and a vehicle to communicate more than I will ever be able to express. Recently, I’ve returned to my immediate family members as subjects.