(Originally published in the San Francisco Bay Area Reporter, 1992)
The Second Visual Arts Exhibit and Performing Arts Show of Latina/Latino Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Artists (LLEGO California), on view during Pride Month at the Mission Cultural Center is one of the best visual feasts presented this year.
It’s also a show that celebrated 500 years of resistance to colonialism, racism, homophobia and xenophobia, so it’s a great election year and Columbus piece too. Perceptions of how far our notions of community may really extend are immediately activated when you walk through the door, so, prepare for the best.
This huge show not only contains an impressive amount of good work produced within the Hispanic subcultural community, but it also reveals a critical powerhouse of craft well-placed against the dominant culture’s ongoing practice of disqualifying or ignoring it. Perceptions naturally somewhat relate to the sheer volume of the venue and the plurality of participating artists included in the show. It’s exciting, mind-boggling, seductive (of course), and reassuring that so many queer art forms are coalescing everywhere – albeit against all odds right now.
In a show by Chicano, Xicana, Perunano, Mexicana, Cubano, Latino and many more distinct Hispanic peoples, this particular group of 25 visual artists offers many personal interpretations of who the “we” in the oft-heard phrase, “we are everywhere” may be. Those these voices cannot be oversimplified or lumped together, some of the variations, sexualities and orientations currently under revision are interwoven in the name of parity under one roof.
Take, for instance, Desi del Valle’s Make Your Own History, a text/photo series. One of the narratives is a school girl’s story of admiration for her lesbian sister, Desiree, concluding with the words, “I hope this wasn’t too personal for you.”
The acts of reweaving and retelling would best describe the main themes here. Xochipala Maes Valdez’s Breast Plate is a pastiche of plaster, acrylic and fabric that highlights Madonna (the singer) lace over a brightly colored Southwestern woven undergarment, which turns this artifact into an ancestral tribute. Extending assemblage informs Domino Nuno’s mixed-media work. He uses pieces of chairs, screws, red paint, debris and photo/sculpture as a means to explore memory as well as the labels we build for ourselves.
Ralfka Gonzalez’s La Loca Mexicana is an entire wall’s worth of collage, which mirrors his point of view that “in art, as in life, you create your own point of view or someone will create it for you.” Over his wallpaper of cultural media, flash cards are hung as detachable pieces, depicting himself in gender fuck, games of lottery, Kahlo Madonnas, etc. His work both captivates and implicates.
Eugene Rodriguez’s Gun to Son, acrylic on gold lame flower-print fabric, is a painting of condensed with and refined camp which takes a backhanded swipe at the patriarchy in very queer ways. A Michelangelo god-hand passes down a loaded arsenal. Next to this piece is The Sixth Sense (Come to Find Out I’m a Whole Lot Like You), melancholy shadow boxes of silver and gold beads which stitch together different words for human senses on gossamer black gauze, while unraveling gender expectations of who might use various tools with a subtlety that could pass through the eye of a needle.
Rebecca L. Tarin’s wood burning and acrylic panels are luminescently delicate rendering of Day of the Dead characters, which stood as reminders about varying perceptions of death in the time of AIDS. She states, “In life there’s also death, to live not in sorrow, but in celebration – that is the ultimate remembrance.” Opposite but similar is the graphic work of photographer Miguel Ronquillo, who balances exquisite form agains raw fantasy.
I felt like I belonged at this exhibition, and that an amazingly active cummunity had proudly invited me. So, by the time I got to La Chica (xerox with pastel) and Amigas (wood-block), images by Juana Maria del la Caridad, my heart was open, and I felt revitalized and supported in sharing pride as unity.