Latino LGBT artists draw attention with heartfelt works
DALLAS (AP) — For a group of Latino LGBT artists, it was time to reclaim the Spanish pejorative “maricón” in much the same way the term “queer” has been re-appropriated by American gays and lesbians.
“We took away its offensive connotation in order to give a platform and a voice to a community that has some things to say through art,” said Alejandro Treviño, board member of Arttitude and program director of MaricónX, an art show focusing on, for the first time in Dallas, the work of Latino LGBT people.
The Dallas Morning News reports through pieces of art and photography, they are seeking to promote understanding of their community. “We thought about doing a show all over Texas, particularly in South Texas, where there’s a budding gay movement,” Treviño said.
“We made a call in social media, and all these artists showed up with their work. We opened our doors without prejudice. Whatever they choose to call themselves – gay, bisexual, transgender – this space is for them.”
The show, which opened May 4 at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center, hit the road to Austin, San Antonio, Houston and McAllen, a city having its first Gay Pride Month.
The show recently returned to Dallas at the Latino Cultural Center, featuring the works of 29 artists. It will remain open through July 27.
Treviño thinks Latino artists are “underrepresented,” especially when it comes to being “a person of color and a homosexual. We want to be a vehicle to keep celebrating diversity.”
Four of the artists talked with The Dallas Morning News about their views on identity, culture, religion, media and politics, as well as sexual and gender identity.
For Marco Saucedo, painting is therapy.
The 30-year-old DACA recipient said he grew up with the “shame” of being homosexual, immigrant and undocumented, and, while he used to be shy and quiet, drawing since he was 4 years old led him to choose a life in art.
“I like to paint something that creates an emotion, either of sadness or joy, things you can have a conversation about,” said Saucedo, who was born in the state of Zacatecas, Mexico, and whose art is being exhibited for the first time in Dallas.
In his paintings, Saucedo captures scenes from his own childhood and his life as an immigrant.
In one of them, he depicts himself with his brother holding a U.S. flag, a sight evoking a day when a snake crawled into their house.
“It’s a representation of the culture and racism: of what this country has given me and how it has hurt me at the same time.”
In another piece, called “No Eres de Aquí (You’re Not From Here),” Saucedo recalls his first days in school, when children singled him out for not speaking English.
In yet another one he appears handcuffed – a reference to one of his two arrests for being an unauthorized immigrant.
And the one epitomizing the most painful moment of his life: a crying child clinging to his dad — it is Saucedo himself as a 7-year-old facing the deportation of his father, who later died in an unsuccessful attempt to sneak back into the U.S.
“Few times have I seen a snapshot of what I represent in other galleries. I don’t think there are many spaces, let alone in Dallas, where we can feel totally open to be who we are,” he said.
In 2009, Olivia Peregrino went to Monterrey to spend some time with her female friends. She realized most of them were living as couples and forming families with children.
Fortuitously, she started taking pictures of them. She ended up with a series of portraits illustrating the experience of being a lesbian mother in Mexico, a setting where same-sex marriage is still an open-ended struggle.
“I wanted to give visibility to these families. It’s an issue people don’t talk about much back in Monterrey, as same-sex marriage is only legal in Mexico City and Coahuila state,” said the 47-year-old artist, who’s been a photographer for 10 years, two of them in the U.S.
Her portrayals show the spontaneity of love between mothers and daughters and sons, a window into gay parenting.
Peregrino has taken part in a number of shows in Mexico, but this is the first time she is exhibiting her work in the U.S., after she met curator Treviño in Washington, D.C.
She said she believes she has more opportunities to grow as an artist here than in her own country. “I think spaces for the gay community are still lacking. But people have been gaining freedoms. It is important we keep fostering art amid discrimination in Texas and nationwide,” she said.
In a second photo sequence – still a work in progress – two naked men look intently at the camera lens.
They’re more intimate pictures, personal representations of body identity free of shame.
“My purpose is showing who we are under our clothes,” Peregrino said.
“Exploring our relationship with our own body – how we look at ourselves, how we would like to look, how other people look at us and how they want us to look. At the end of the day, it’s a work about acceptance,” she said.
An androgynous figure combs a long, black mane surrounding them. The phrases scribbled around their hair attest to loving one’s self in every possible way.
Armando Sebastian drew his inspiration from Frida Kahlo’s “Autorretrato con Pelo Corto (Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair),” which the renowned Mexican artist painted shortly after divorcing her cheating husband, Diego Rivera.
In her original painting, Kahlo appears wearing a man’s shirt, shoes and an oversized suit. Hovering are the lyrics of a Mexican popular song: “I loved you because of your hair. Now that you cropped your hair, I don’t love you anymore.”
“I never let my hair grow until a couple of years ago. I always had it close-cropped,” said Sebastian, a Monterrey native and a Dallas resident since 2004.
“I thought about doing a painting of myself where I did the opposite to Frida – saying I love my long hair and now I love myself more. It’s a small tribute to Frida and myself,” said Sebastian, who besides Kahlo, has being inspired by the work of Remedios Varo, Marc Chagall and Salvador Dalí.
Sebastian’s pieces are an unusual mix of religious images, bright colors inspired in Mexican folk art, Japanese manga and 18th-century art.
He says he conveys biographical moments and memories from his childhood and teenage years, as well as drawing from icons of literature and music.
His works have also been shown in Los Angeles and Tyler.
He’ll have an exhibit in New York next July.
“The ‘m-word’ is too strong for me because its meaning, as I grew up in Mexico, is the opposite of what we want to do here, which is making the community aware of us and celebrate who we are,” Sebastian said.
A naked woman’s torso, which was shown on MaricónX’s page, was censored in Facebook as organizers were advertising the event.
The black-and-white photograph by artist Debra Gloria, which is part of the Sensualidad series, showing the naturalness of the female body, had to be replaced with another, more “universally accepted” image.
“It’s incredible how a woman’s nipple gets immediately censored, but a shirtless man is accepted as a natural thing,” said Gloria, 56, who taking photos for 28 years after she fell in love with it while attending an after-school class at San Antonio University.
In Sensualidad, Gloria wants to celebrate love among women, the vulnerability of the female gender but also its passions, women’s ways of loving and the meaning of unconditional love.
“Ever since I have shown my work publicly, I have been censored,” she said. “Sometimes I’m afraid people won’t view women as I see them, which is a celebration of their beauty.”