An Elegy on Diversity
I wave goodbye as the ark of diversity floats away, released to the tumultuous waters of 2017.
She’s gone now, but don’t despair. As she left the plains, she dragged along with her the security blanket of "Midwest nice," revealing an incredibly resilient structure underneath Wichita's communities of color, filled with ancient wisdom for community strength and powerful collaboration.
The arts exist to facilitate transformation within a community. And if we are to have sustainable and equitable economic opportunity in Wichita, then we must lean into the discomfort of addressing our challenges, including the complicity of local leadership in the displacement and disenfranchisement of communities of color.
This problematic past has left behind a legacy of segregation, redlining and divestment — and its widespread impact is omnipresent in the neighborhoods surrounding our booming downtown district. For Wichita to have a prosperous economy for the long haul, it must first come to terms with its past — and understand how it continues to lead its present.
Belonging and representation are key elements in the dignified transformation of struggling neighborhoods, and music and public art are there to facilitate this process of change. The deployment of community-engaged art practices and intentional financial support for artists of color opens up a powerful platform that elevates the voices of under-heard communities, instigates opportunity and offers fresh propositions for collective healing.
Be real about inequality, be aggressive about dismantling systemic oppression, push for economic development that celebrates identity and prioritizes people, and trust artists to foster creative transformation along the way.
Ni de Aqui ni de Alla
Ni de Aqui Ni de Alla, roughly translated into English as “from neither here nor there", is an expression long used in Mexico to exemplify a type of personal internal upheaval against belonging and displacement, a type of identity crisis that simultaneously accepts and rejects one’s connection to any one particular place and culture.
I lived in Mexico until I was 15 and have lived in the US for 13 years; I exist in some kind of spatial limbo, a whitewashed landscape in which I must stablish cultural markers or spatial imagery that challenges the invisibility of my existence as an undocumented immigrant living in the shadows of colonization and displacement.
The rawness of people’s self-expression manifested in their brightly painted houses, decorated with silk flowers and elaborate altars for the Virgen de Guadalupe, becomes an aesthetic of intensity that challenges the public denial of our existence.
My recent work exists as a bright, loud, and unapologetic declaration of self, challenging the white spatial imaginary characteristic of our homogenized western visual dogma.
“Un Recuerdito” (A Little Keepsake) addresses the themes of memory, time and identity within the context of my personal experiences as an undocumented immigrant from Mexico living in Kansas since 2001.
Fragments of memory frozen in time come together and are reintroduced as new propositions for the now. As a regular exercise of organic collaboration and a desire to create new meaningful memories, I enlisted over 30 people, family members and friends, in a collaborative process of creating all the artworks in the exhibition.
The final pieces are a direct result of the interactions with my collaborators, my personal memories and the memories created through 16 months of creation and interaction. The art pieces are made with materials purchased primarily in Mexico.
The collaborators are:
Amber Brenner, Analy Minjarez, Angelica Nieto, Antonia Minjarez, Bayleigh Hamilton, Christina Coldiron, Connie Aragon, Connor Lang, Dylan Barnett, Emira Palacios, Fernando Minjarez, Hugo Zelada-Romero, Jeff Perritt , Jesse Smith, Jesse Villegas, Julian Ortiz, Kayla Whitley, Laura Dungan, Louis Goseland, Maria Bertha Minjarez, Matt Gillan, Michael Hoheisel, Minh Mai, Mitch Schroeder, Nely Maldonado, Ramona Rocha, Robert Goseland, Skum, Veronica Miranda, Vicky Minjarez, Victoria Becerril.
>What does it mean to be an American?<
What does it mean to be an American?
Trying to define what it means to be an American is proving to be more difficult than I had anticipated. To be an American is to live in a realm of dichotomies, es el reir llorando.
We have a bleeding heart with a wound so deep I wonder if it will ever heal; centuries of conquest, blood and tears have left us so weak, yet we continue to dance to the rhythms of ancient drums and to hear them echo on every mountain top, rolling through valleys and across the plains.
We come and go and move and float like the feathers in a penacho bouncing in the air, a head dress worn by mestizos clinging to any fragments of identity that are still left. Americanos are the prospects of a new race, one that is resilient like the cactus that grows where there is no water and wears a coat of thorns, yet so tender like a girasol…Americanos are like a bouquet of flowers so diverse that each one seeks the best place to get kissed by the sun.
We all swim in the oceans of history; we play in waters that have touched every shore, we get drenched with the brilliance of ancient cults and imagine a new horizon as we sail in journeys to discover territories in the land we had always known.
My grandma thought me of Moctezuma, Benito Juarez and Pancho Villa, heroes who fought for dignity and liberty; she would tell me poems of Juan de Dios Peza and describe Don Quixote’s journeys and the revelations Sor Juana Ines wrote; but most importantly, she thought me how to find a ripe tuna, open it up and eat its juicy flesh without getting thorns all over my hands.
To be an American is to be intimate change.
Objects of Desire
I have an obsession with objects. I have them, collect them, cherish them, value them, store them, recycle them, throw them away, forget about them…and I want more.
We all want more.
Our collective identity is that of a consumer and we must surround ourselves with objects that create meaning in our fabricated environment. I create objects that share the aesthetic vernacular of those found in our made-up environments and are subsequently influenced by process, material and form.
I’m fascinated in the effort rendered by people to design each individual object and how, by default, the objects have to coexist along with each other in some kind of optical chaotic congruence.
The objects I make sit around my studio in groupings until those congruencies among them begin to manifest; the arrangements suggest domestic or urban settings. The abundance of color, texture, shapes and materials everywhere we look in our made-up environments are sometimes overwhelming but always unexpected and alluring.
Art as an agent for change
The celebration of culture and diversity lays at the foundation of a vibrant community that is empowered to create sustainable social change, in which the arts act as the 'glue' for connecting people across different constituencies as well as acting as effective agitator for new ways of thinking and behaving.
The intentionality behind my creative process is profoundly influenced by my background as a social justice activist, and my experiences as an undocumented immigrant in the U.S. I want my artwork to merely instigate personal reflection on those issues and many more.
Perhaps by instigating a focused conversation between individuals on the issues in their communities, the door of creativity opens wide to endless possibilities that have the potential to awaken people and lead them to take action and start living the lives they dream of.
“Supply and demand”, originally an economic model for Capitalism has become a “life model” for American families. The scrupulous and discerning eye of corporate marketing tactics has collected extensive amounts of information about consumer behavior and impulses. They know what we want, so we go and get it, piece by piece we buy and construct an illusionary model of the material self we seek to become. The paradigm of consumerism has flipped: consumers are bought and sold at the market place.
We have fallen victims to endless imagery that attacks our subconscious everyday, every hour, every minute; an incessant flow of logos, brands, slogans and jingles that submerge our streets, invade our homes and flicker on our screens. We consume and discard without hesitation, with little to no regard about the origin of any given product and its final post-consumer dwelling. Our planet cannot sustain such incessant consumption of products. The inevitable creation of overwhelming amounts of consumer waste by-product, which is indiscriminately dumped onto our environment, negates any reverence to nature itself, and it destroys and divides healthy communities.
My research is influenced by American consumer culture, material culture and the use of such "materiality" by people as a way
to understand human connections and interactions, create meaning and
justify means. I actively observe and document the implementation of marketing strategies in commercial settings, consumer behavior, religious and social rituals, symbolism and post-consumer waste. The documentation consists of sketches, videos, photographs, and sound recordings, as well as collecting post-consumer objects. All the information collected informs my creative process and ultimately manifests in the final installations physically, formally or conceptually.