I met Dr. Gary Keller while attending a three day mono-print workshop in Phoenix. He presented himself on the second day, along with his assistant Santiago Morato. He had some projects in the planning and he was interested in meeting artists. I carried a resume and slides and I gave them to him for review. His assistant contacted me the following week. Dr. Keller, he said, was interested in including my work in a book he was planning to publish.
Gary Keller works on the Arizona State University campus, for the Hispanic Research Center (HRC). I always think of this whole encounter beginning with me being in the right place at the right time. This relationship with Gary and the HRC was to offer me many valuable experiences.
The HRC offered me the opportunity to create a lithograph at Segura Publishing. We signed a contract for a limited edition print of one of my works on paper. I received a stipend, and agreed to give half of the prints to the HRC. It was a generous opportunity and a win-win. Within a short time I was creating my first lithograph, Alchemical Action, with Joe Segura.
Gary did include the lithograph and other works of mine, in the first books, Contemporary Chicana and Chicano Art, Volumes I and II.
He was also to include my work in two other books that followed; Chicano Art for our Millenium and Triumph of Our Communities, the latter includes a DVD. There are now young students who know my work (and many others) because their teachers have exposed them to these books. Not only do they have high quality photography and well written text, they also include lesson plans for the classroom. I still receive the occasional email from a student or teacher, or someone from my home town in El Paso, Texas. They express they know my work or they went to the same high school as I did, they want to be an artist…well wishers making a connection.
In the years to follow, after my first encounter with Gary and his assistant Santiago, I participated in symposiums, art exhibits and sold my work at various art auctions. I met many people including Melanie Magisos who also worked closely along side Gary. They are a hard working bunch. And I will note, they throw a great pachanga.
Gary and his two sons Thomas and Shawn purchased artworks at the first auction the HRC held. As did the HRC, for its own permanent collection. The collection travels and gets exhibited regularly.
At the last auction I met Dr. Gilberto Cardenas, one of the directors of the Institute for Latino Studies , at the University of Notre Dame. He purchased a work titled Balancing Act. I am working on another project in association with both Segura Press and the University of Nortre Dame.
Even my husband got involved, he came home from one auction with his first art work purchase, a silkscreen by Leticia Huerta titled “Padre Nuestro”. And he told me, he had met actor Tony Plana, who apparently was also at the auction.
One event I particularly enjoyed included educators from across the valley, participating in an egg tempera and casein workshop I was able to facilitate. The day would include the workshop held at the Phoenix Art Museum, dinner with the educators and it would end in the evening with over forty people in my studio. Gary was present for the evening event, he spoke about the various projects and his intentions. A question and answer session followed, which included discussion about my work and process.
To be truthful, I felt at the beginning my content and form seemed out of place. This was most obvious to me at exhibitions where art work was present. I do represent the Hispanic, Latina/o, Chicana/o community because culturally that is what I am. In terms of my work, I always believed it went into a broader category. I am most concerned with spiritual matters, abstract in nature, that is what my work represents. Although there are few abstract artists in the mix, there is a category, and I am in it. The work as a whole, is diverse.
I bring this identity issue up because it really got me thinking. What am I exactly? What is Chicana/o? What is Latina/o? Hispanic? What is American? Who decides Who I am? It brought up much conversation, within myself, with family and friends, with fellow artists. I wanted clarity. This is what art should do; inform, create dialogue, and clarify.
The last few years with the war and immigration issues in our country, I was thinking much about culture and political labels, so much, my last series came into being. It is different from all my other work. “Another Mental Concoction” considers all these issues, my questions and then some. The work includes words and is more representational. Two of the paintings showed in national and international exhibits, this last Spring and Summer, in the state of Texas, and in Monterrey, Mexico.
Did I get answers? I feel I am clearer about who I am, a creative spirit for sure.
From the beginning this experience with Dr. Keller and the Hispanic Research Center was important for me. It presented itself very professionally. I could feel a level of respect from everyone, for my position as an artist. I thank Gary and the HRC and everyone that is a part of the continuing dialogue…I find myself in a more personally informed position these days.
Visit the Latino Art Community web site to learn about all their work and about the many artists that participate.