THROUGH XICANX VEGANISM, I find interest in the decolonization of one’s diet, or a desire to reclaim the pre-colonial plant-based nourishment of my ancestors through food and herbal medicine. Through visual art, curation, and self-publishing, I analyze what it means to decolonize art, art history, and consumption, and to embrace the lessons that the earth has to teach us.
In embodying a neo-Mestiza/Xicana identity, I recognize where my materials originate. Acrylic paints have Mexican origins, oil paints have European origins, and corn husks have Indigenous origins. I see the corn husks as the skin of the figures, speaking to Mesoamerican creation stories that our very beings are created from maiz. I relate each material to a part of my identity, and recognize when they mix or resist one another on the painting surface. This material use speaks to gendered ideas of nature and culture as well as the dichotomy of folk art and fine art. I call these paintings “mestiza media” works, reclaiming the “mestizo” colonial caste label, and using it to partly replace the term “mixed media.” I define mestiza media as when an artist uses multiple types of media that originate from the region(s) of their ancestors. Accepting mixedness is also about embracing queerness and the fluid nature of identity. Through these works, I create figures that exist in between socially constructed binaries.
Painting Float was a different process for me. I had no idea what image I was going to create, and it sort of just created itself. I really began to see the corn husks as collaborators here rather than just materials I would “use.” I began with adhering purple-dyed corn husks to the canvas, then adding acrylic paint in an abstract manner as it felt necessary. Since I’ve always been drawn to the figure, I added a solitary subject. I did this by standing with my back to the painting hung on the wall, and traced my silhouette with paint. The height that the painting was hung at determined that the figure would be on the bottom half of the painting. I felt a sinking feeling from this, and since the palette was blue, water made sense to me. I was thinking a lot about anxieties revolving around politics and our environment. When it came time to title it, I thought about whether this figure was sinking or swimming. I landed on Float as the title, because at times we may feel like we’re drowning or flourishing, but we are often somewhere in the middle, staying afloat. It has to do with optimism and pessimism and how they relate to mental health, but also to how we are enduring through the impacts of climate change. Water is life but it can also be death—nothing has just one side to it. What can we do for the earth, for ourselves, and for one another to thrive in the waters of this planet?
The triptych Precipitate (Rain), Evaporate (Sun), and Condense (Cloud) personifies the cyclical nature of water and our human relationship to the elements. It reflects waves of emotions, growth, and change that each person goes through in a day, a year, or a lifetime. The sun shines on the earth, evaporating bodies of water, and this might reflect nourishment or renewal. Then the water vapor forms into clouds through condensation, with feelings of fullness–perhaps satisfying or overwhelming. Finally, the water becomes so heavy that rainfall occurs through precipitation, signifying grief, release, or even joy. And then the process repeats. When we look at our climate today, we know that these processes can be elevated to treacherous levels, and that we are in need of balance. I made this work during COVID-19 quarantine while thinking a great deal about plant medicine, mental health, body awareness, and the continuous violence enacted upon people of color and the planet. We are not separate from nature. What lessons have we forgotten that she has to teach us?
Text works like No Hate, No Fear from my Maiz Protest Sign series help me to experiment with protest as art. I collect chants that I hear at marches and rallies for my work. They’re a way to bring literal voices together for a common goal, and I see protest chanting as a form of ritual. They bring hope to the idea of people power that we collectively hold. In creating decorative protest signs, I have fused art and activism in order to mark a chapter in time of our contemporary civil rights struggle.
In Close the Camps, the material usage has ties to power hierarchies, survival, and post-colonial spirituality. With multiple cultural influences, the young figure prays to close the contemporary US concentration camps. In times of suffering, some may find light in the very method of worship that was forced upon our ancestors. I’m interested in these difficult human complexities. The words flow in and out of the cage bars as those of us on the outside work in solidarity for the imprisoned; as we protest against the administration and the violent dehumanization of courageous people. The husks behind the bars signify the number of Indigenous people in the camps, and an entire tube of European oil paint was used to create the thick barrier of prison bars over the figure. Still, with hope, the praying hands peek through.
I have no doubt in the power of art. Creative thinkers are needed to progress ideas and movements forward. Art is not neutral, and artists have the choice to create for a purpose. My work serves as a platform for working through my own intersections as well as striving for an intercultural conversation with folks outside of my identities. This, I hope, will open doors to compassion and healing in this world of destruction.
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Thank you. Gracias. Tlazocamati.