For some memory or some land
FRANK M. DOYLE ARTS PAVILION, ORANGE COAST COLLEGE
Through December 1, 2022
Written by Liz Goldner
This exhibition is more about land as metaphor for the lives of the participating artists — whether that land is in nature or in decaying urban sites — than depictions about actual parcels of land. The artists in the show are all Chicanos. Yet their work is more a reflection of the styles, media and execution by contemporary artmakers of diverse backgrounds and races than of pioneering Chicano artists such as Gilbert Luján, Frank Romero and Carlos Almaraz.
The exhibition explores personal and family histories and issues, the travails and traumas of immigrant and migrant families, aspects of being a “queer” American, urban structures and their decay, and especially memories, whether inherent in the artists’ lives or conjured up by family stories. Dakota Noot, curator of the show and an art instructor at OCC, explains that the exhibiting artists rebuild nature through their paintings, sculpture, photographs, assemblage pieces and installations.
One well-known known artist here is Narsiso Martinez, who is currently also showing work in Orange County Museum of Art’s California Biennial 2022, and in the Museum of Latin American Art’s show, Narsiso Martinez: Rethinking Essential.The Oaxacan-born artist’s Unnumbered Portrait Series (2017-2022) at OCC are empathetic linocut portraits emblazoned onto discarded produce boxes collected from grocery stores. Martinez, who has worked as a farmworker, is naturally empathetic toward those who pick and harvest our produce, who do backbreaking work at low pay to fill our produce sections and restaurant kitchens. Working in a Social Realism style, his portraits bring viewers to the intensity and seeming fearlessness of the workers, with all of them wearing masks.
The boldest installation in the show, displayed near the entrance, is I Am Them, They Is I (2022) by Jynx Prado, a self-described “queer” artist. The exhibit includes a colorful life size figure on a pedestal, which Prado also uses for performances. Constructed from burlap, fabric, yarn, cotton filling and other materials, Mx. Burlap’s smiling face, inviting stance and amusingly rumpled attire beckon viewers to the show. Surrounding Mx. Burlap are several colorful square art pieces from the artist’s Stare Series. Made from burlap, fabric, yarn, thread, acrylic and oil pastel, and affixed to the walls, each fabric painting contains eyes staring out at viewers, along with statements that LGBT children might hear from family members, including “Pray it Away” and “My child is just in a phase.”
Christopher Anthony Velasco’s My Aunt Marge (2016) series is comprised of 10 black and white photos of the artist posing as his Aunt Marge. Yet he never knew his aunt; he only heard and read about the heroic woman who died decades ago in an accident on the Sixth Street Bridge in East L.A. For the photos, Velasco dons a wig and dress to appropriate the look of his deceased aunt, and poses — for another photographer — on the bridge before it underwent demolition six years ago. (It has since been rebuilt.) The installation also includes a reproduction of a Los Angeles Times article reporting on his aunt’s untimely death. The curator explains that the photos link conjured memories of the loss of Aunt Marge with the loss of the bridge that so many have passed over. The photos also immortalize the aunt, while connecting her to the bridge and to the L.A. River.
Keepers of Affliction (2021) by Juan Gomez consists of abstract assemblage pieces made from rope, twine, thread, zip ties, index card rings, dyed thread and spray paint. These colorful art pieces appear as tangled and convoluted constructions. They are described by the curator as references to our inner organs and tissues; and more deeply as symbolic manifestations of our inner organs, and of the physical and emotional afflictions that migrant families often experience. These powerful and often repellent pieces are said to give voice to the voiceless while aiming to heal the wounds that they expose.
Jackie Castillo’s Turning No°2 (2022) is a faux house, made of real reclaimed bricks, each imprinted with a laser image, and installed on the floor of the gallery. The unusual placement of this art piece, along with its dystopian, ruined aspect, reference the loss of identity and the self as unreal and estranged for people from her community.
Aydinaneth Ortiz’s A Portrait of my Neighborhood (2013-ongoing) is a series of black and white and color photographs of people, landscapes and ephemera, such as toys, of her Latino neighborhood. These empathetic pictures depict people of all ages and states of mind, from joyous to downtrodden, while exploring issues of class, race, mental illness and addiction. The highly skilled and trained photographic artist explains that her art is a direct response to her personal struggles and family hardships.
Gloria Gem Sánchez is part Chicana and part Filipina. Working with stories, memories and archetypes from her hybrid cultural identity, she employs familiar, comfortable materials to create her work. Her they’ll be there to take you home; you have everything you need (2022) is a cyanotype on embroidered cotton with artist’s hair, faux hair, wood, fabric, rug wool, found materials and earth. It is a lyrical, elegant tribute in various blues to her dual heritage, replete with flowers and a plant. The artist’s As I Lull Myself to Breathe (2021) is a composite of treasured family photos on natural and synthetic fabric, adorned with wreaths. Part of the intention of Sánchez’s artmaking is to heal personal and familial intergenerational trauma.
Orange Coast College
2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa, CA 92626