Culture

8 Texan Artists Take On Identity And Politics In New Exhibit

In Trump’s America, activist art is on the rise. Artists have a wide range of emotions — from frustration to hope — that they want to express through their medium of choice.

Mexic-Arte Museum, an art institution located in Austin, Texas, has a long history of presenting emerging Latino artists to the public, and this summer season they have a lot of topics they’re exploring.

“Young Latino Artists 22: ¡Ahora!,” guest curated by Alana Coates, marks the 22nd installment of the emerging Latinx artist exhibition series at Mexic-Arte Museum — and this show gets political.

This is their curatorial statement: “In an era of socio-political upheaval in the United States -– from U.S.-Mexico border relations, to widespread economic inequalities, increased racial tensions, and subsequent hate on the rise across the country — the selected artists navigate matters of gender restrictions, immigration politics, cultural heritage, and privilege. Their artworks confront viewers with prominent issues of the contemporary Latinx experience in the United States.”

“Young Latino Artists 22: ¡Ahora!” features the work of eight Texan artists.

Instagram/@danielacmadrigal

The featured artists include Nansi Guevara (Laredo, Texas), Daniela Cavazos Madrigal (Laredo, Texas), Mark Anthony Martinez (San Antonio, Texas), Michael Martinez (San Antonio, Texas), Paloma Mayorga (Austin, Texas), Ashley Mireles (San Antonio, Texas), Andrei Rentería (Chihuahua City, Mexico / Presidio, Texas), and José Villalobos (El Paso, Texas).

In response to the politically-heavy theme, Coates told The San Antonio Current that it’s a topic that isn’t easy to escape, especially for these artists. “The Trump administration has forced itself into the national discourse” and added that the artists are “negotiating with the current climate.”

In an interview with mitú, the artists featured in this show discussed their artwork, their mental process in developing it, and how it has affected them and their family.

José Villalobos challenges the ideas of gender roles from conservative communities along the border.

Jose Villalobos. Sin La ‘S’, 2017. Mixed media installation.

Villalobos has several pieces in this show, including an installation featuring several sombreros. He tells mitú that before he created this installation he had to consider the space and the formulated an idea.

“Eventually, after thinking about these hats that I would see [on] my uncles I thought that by suspending these hats in the manner that I did would in some way or another imitate a person, the effect I got was rather ghostly as well,” Villalobos said. “The reason I chose those hats… it was because it is something I grew up seeing. These ‘men’ would be walking in their macho way and their hat was a symbol of power.”


Villalobos said that his family has a “hard time understanding art,” including “conceptual and contemporary art.” He has tried explaining how he associates himself and the concept to the objects.

“I don’t think some of my family is quite supportive of the work I do because it deals with the issues of being gay and that is something they are not 100% supportive about,” Villalobos said. “My family’s overall sentiment is ‘mas-o-menos’ for lack of a better term.”

Mark Anthony Martinez looks at representations of “whiteness” and how they are interconnected with systems of domination and privilege.

Mark Anthony Martinez

Martinez tells mitú that the phrase “No New White Friends” is a take off Drake’s song “No New Friends.”

“I’m using it precisely as a POC who’s had ‘those’ long debates [usually on social media] with clueless white, and sometimes brown, folks who claim to ‘get it’ yet, make apologies for oppressive structures,” Martinez said. “In this context, the work ‘No New White Friends’ is a motto of self-preservation against the malaise of toxic comment threads that inevitably crop up whenever racial inequities are brought up or shared.”

Daniela Cavazos Madrigal’s work reflects her interest in sociocultural issues along the U.S.- Mexico border from the perspective of a woman and mother.

Daniela Madrigal “Sopita De Letras, 2017”

Cavazos tells mitú that she was originally intending to do something completely different for this show, which would have looked something like funeral wreaths, however, when she began working on them, her grandmother passed away.

“So my work evolved into an homage of the life of my grandmother,” Cavazos said. “I wanted to pay tribute to her life as a homemaker, as a woman, who despite many injustices in her life, worked hard and never gave up hope. She never reached her American dream, but she did live out her own dream, a life of contentment.”

“My work is composed mainly of installations, using materials that belonged to my grandmother, as well as found materials and repurposed clothing sourced from the ‘pacas’ (warehouses that sell clothing by the pound). My pieces are embroidered and spell out ‘dichos’ or sayings that my grandmother would often use, most of them humorous, but very direct. As much as this work helped me deal with the loss, I wanted my work to evoke a sense of collective healing in the midst of our current time.”

Photographer and painter Paloma Mayorga tells mitú her work deals with themes of healing.

Paloma Mayorga. Poderosa II (Powerful), 2016.

Some of her photographs are actually created with a scanner. “The ways in which I hold my body, or other objects meant to symbolize my body, against the glass of the scanner are informed by my emotions and desire for healing,” she says.

Mayorga said that the intention behind her work is to reconnect with her roots, culturally, spiritually, and physically.

“Growing up in the U.S. as the daughter of two Mexican immigrants, issues and questions of identity have always intrigued me and are now at the forefront of my work.” Mayorga tells mitú. “I’m particularly interested in dismantling gender-specific roles imposed on us by others, as well as dissecting the rhetoric used to talk about women and our bodies. I hope to contribute to the conversations people have regarding that rhetoric.”

Michael Martinez is a multidisciplinary conceptual artist whose work confronts identity from the vantage of a Gay person of color.

Michael Martinez

Martinez, who has four pieces featured within this year’s YLA exhibition, titled the above-pictured installation “Courageous.”

Martinez tells mitú that this artwork deconstructs the metaphorical “closet” and is a hand-made, 30-foot long Pride flag, which arcs downward from the ceiling of the Mexic-Arte Museum, and culminates in the explosive impact through a wooden closet door, whose splinters are suspended in the air via a gold thread.

The colors in this piece are also referencing the recently unveiled Philadelphia Pride Flag of 2017, which includes black and brown stripes, “in honor of the legacy and endurance of Black and Brown People within the LGBTQ community.”

“I didn’t start examining the salience of gender within my identity-based art practice until I ‘came out’ to my family at the end of 2014,” Martinez tells mitú. “All this is very new to me. The gender-neutral framework of Latinx is very appealing to me, because it makes space for all those Black and Brown People who never had a platform within the binary models of Chican@ or Latina/o. I can only hope that my art practice blossoms in a similar fashion—making space for my LGBTQIA fellows so that they might not feel forgotten or alone.”

Nansi Guevara’s work uses her rascuache sensibilities to create de-colonial public artwork.

Nansi Guevara

Guevara said she was working on her pieces while protesting SB-4 with local activists in Brownsville and in the state capital.

“After working and volunteering in activist circles lead by women and queer folks in the Rio Grande Valley, seeing the fire and passion and the tireless work of these activists, but also experiencing these circles as sources of healing, mutual support, and solidarity helped me understand that no injustice is met without community resistance and power,” Guevara tells mitú.

“I started to create these fabric murals that are sort of a continuation of the political posters I was doing previously — but building them with fabric material you would normally find in a typical home on the border — as a way to represent gente fighting from their households through sustaining their families and working for a dignified life.”

Andrei Renteria

“These drawings have been altered to look like gigantic individual sheets of notebook paper ripped apart at the seams,” Renteria tells mitú. “Each drawing is done at different levels of rendition and is accompanied by text and/or notes that entail, in an investigative in a journalistic manner, the tragic end to that particular person’s life.”

“As a native of the state of Chihuahua, Mexico where the number of forced disappearances has risen over the years, I am trying to understand the motives or the backstory to the succession of such events,” Renteria said. “My initial intentions for the series was to re-create the step by step process of a forced disappearance, by putting myself or the viewer into the role of the perpetrator.”

The exhibit will be open until Aug. 27.

READ: This Young Latino Creates Art Inspired By His Immigrant Parents

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Texas High Schoolers Conducted a Mock ‘Slave Auction’ Of Black Students Over Snapchat

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Texas High Schoolers Conducted a Mock ‘Slave Auction’ Of Black Students Over Snapchat

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Students at a high school in Aledo, Texas are being disciplined after the administration discovered they held a mock slave auction on Snapchat where they “traded” Black students.

Screenshots of the Snapchat group show that these unnamed students “bid” on students of color, ranging anywhere from $1 to $100.

One student in particular was priced at $1 because his hair was “bad”. The screenshot also shows that the group chat’s name changed regularly. The group’s name started as “Slave Trade” then changed to “N—-r Farm”, and finally to “N—– Auction”.

Upon learning of the mock slave auction, the Daniel Ninth Grade Campus’s principal wrote a note to parents explaining the situation. Principal Carolyn Ansley called the mock slave auction “an incident of cyberbullying and harassment” which “led to conversations about how inappropriate and hurtful language can have a profound and lasting impact” on people.

Many people felt that the school principal downplayed the gravity of the mock slave auction. Not once did she mention the word racism in the letter that she sent out to parents.

“Calling it cyberbullying rather than calling it racism… that is the piece that really gets under my skin,” said Mark Grubbs, father to three former Aledo ISD students, to NBC DFW. But Grubbs, along with many other Aledo parents and community members, say that the incident didn’t surprise them.

In fact, Grubbs said he had to take his children out of the Aledo ISD school system because of how much racist harassment his children were facing. “A lot of racism,” he said of his son’s experience at the school. “My son being called out of his name and what not and it got to the point he didn’t mind fighting and that didn’t sit right with me and my wife. My son was never a fighter.”

After the backlash to the initial statement, Superintendent Susan Bohn finally released a statement condemning the racism and “hatred” of the mock slave auction.

“There is no room for racism or hatred in the Aledo ISD, period,’ Bohn wrote. “Using inappropriate, offensive and racially charged language and conduct is completely unacceptable and is prohibited by district policy.”

The problem with “policies” like these is they fail to target the issue of racism at the root. Hate speech may be “prohibited”, but if a child is displaying racist behavior for whatever reason, the bigger problem is the way that they have been educated and indoctrinated. Slave auctions have no place in 2021.

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Texas Republicans Are Recruiting An ‘Army’ of Poll-Watchers To Go Into Black and Brown Precincts To ‘Fight Voter Fraud’

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Texas Republicans Are Recruiting An ‘Army’ of Poll-Watchers To Go Into Black and Brown Precincts To ‘Fight Voter Fraud’

Photo via Getty Images

The GOP’S voter-suppression tactics in Georgia have been gripping the nation. But now, the media is also turning its attention to other voter-suppression tactics in the rest of the country. Now, Texas Republicans are taking the heat.

According to Common Cause Texas, Texas Republicans are planning on recruiting thousands of volunteers create an “election integrity brigade”. They want the “brigade” to go into Black and brown neighborhoods in Houston and “fight voter fraud”.

A Texas GOP presentation was leaked that outlined plans to send an “army” of poll-watchers to Black and brown precincts.

“I’m trying to encourage and recruit, as a precinct chair, about 30 people in my precinct who will have the confidence and courage to come down in here…,” said an unnamed GOP official, pointing to majority non-white urban areas, “…in these areas where we really need poll-workers. Because this is where the problem is occuring.”

“So me finding poll-watchers out here, it helps, but it’s a pretty safe precinct”. He said this while pointing to majority-white Houston neighborhoods.

The video inspired outrage among people who saw these tactics as blatant attempts to suppress the voting rights of POC.

“The impetus for releasing [the video] right now is there are some bills in the legislature that seek to empower poll watchers in some really scary ways,” said executive director of Common Cause Texas, Anthony Gutierrez, to NBC News. “And also at the same time, take away the power of the presiding judge at the poll site from being able to remove a disruptive poll watcher.”

“It’s very clear that we’re talking about recruiting people from the predominantly Anglo parts of town to go to Black and Brown neighborhoods,” said Gutierrez to The Washington Post.

“This is a role that’s supposed to do nothing but stand at a poll site and observe,” he added. Why is he suggesting someone needs to be ‘courageous’?”

This “election integrity brigade” comes on the heels of a problematic election bill the Texas Senate just passed.

According to NBC News, the bill “bans overnight early voting and drive-thru early voting” and also “empowers partisan poll watchers.”

“It’s part of the intimidation, the confusion, the antics that (the Republican Party) has engaged in for so many generations that culminated in President Trump asking people to overturn the election,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo to CNN.

“What they’re doing is filing bills that are essentially a poll tax that weaponize the election system against our own voters,” she continued. “And what they’re proposing is absolutely tragic and reminiscent of the worst of what we’ve seen in Texas and across the South since Reconstruction.”

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