Tempe Center for the Arts' latest exhibition, Mixing It Up: Building an Identitycelebrates Mexican American artwork and examines the identity of artists who have been influenced by the mixing of Mexican and American Culture in the United States.
More than 60 pieces by Mexican, American, and Mexican American artists, including Luis Jimenez, Enrique Chagoya, Thomas Hart Benton, and Martin Moreno (to name a few) touch on family and community values and labor and border issues.
Moreno grew up as a migrant worker in Michigan and says he hitchhiked across the country after the death of his mother. At 17, he made it to Mexico City, where he says he was inspired by the social and political impact made my Mexican muralists.
Today, Moreno, who was honored with the Arizona Governor's Artist of the Year Award for 2011, also notes events of his youth such as the Vietnam War and the influence of figures like Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King Jr. as reasons for his lifelong commitment to questioning inequalities through his art.
Tempe Center for the Arts held a reception for the exhibition on September 17. Dozens of art admirers mingled with some of the exhibition's artists, who eagerly talked about the inspiration behind their work and how it related to the theme of the show.
Jerry Montoya, a painter and illustrator based in California, says he grew up trying to understand the duality of his identity.
While he grew up in a culturally Mexican family structure, Montoya was told at a young age that he was American first and being Mexican was just "something extra."
Montoya says his art, specifically the piece Soy Americano, was a way for him to explore the this concept of being American first.
The painting portrays Montoya wrapped in an American flag with Latino iconography, like Che Guevara and a calavera, in the background.
"It pretty much shows what I've been told growing up," he says Moreno, who's also the art director of Las Artes de Maricopa County, says this exhibition is also a way to educate and bridge gaps between cultures.
Esperando la luna, one of his pieces, shows a skeleton holding a bouquet of roses against the backdrop of the Arizona desert. One rose is black.
He says the painting is a representation of lost love and separation of family perpetuated by the border issues our state faces.
Moreno, who has three pieces on display, believes artists are responsible for providing a reflection of their community's identity.
Reception attendees were encouraged to play Loteria, a bingo-like game, with the artists' artwork.
Cards representing themes (family, labor, folk, traditional, and more) were provided and visitors were encouraged to try and assign themes that fit with certain pieces in the exhibition.