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Lalo Cota on SB 1070, Sombrero Invasions, and Designing this Week's Cover of New Times

Lalo Cota had been drawing sombreros long before SB 1070 was signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010.

"We call it BS 1070," he says.

Cota was born in Navojoa, Sonora, Mexico. Long after moving to Phoenix, his skeletons and Mexican caricatures became painted icons on walls and buildings in downtown Phoenix.

His sombreros took on a different form when he was watching the news around the time SB 1070 was signed; someone said something about a "Mexican invasion" and he says it kind of clicked.

We asked Cota to illustrate a cover for this week's feature, "Borderline Expression," a survey of SB 1070-related art created within the last year.

Read the feature here and more about Cota's inspiration after the jump ...

On January 20, Cota took over a wall of the Hive, a shop/gallery on 16th Street in Phoenix. The Hive was hosting an anniversary party for Get Your PHX, a local group that shows up to Valley restaurants and stores in herds to support the latest business venture.

In January, they celebrated The Hive as well as the Calle 16 Mural project, started by Barrio Cafe's Silvana Esparza. It's a large-scale reactionary project Cota's been involved in since the beginning, and one he plans to continue (with another mural) in the next week or so.

Hanging on his installation wall at the Hive were two portraits: one of a Phoenix cactus, the other with skeleton versions of Jan Brewer and Joe Arpaio.

On the floor was an American flag, a few desert plants, a Mexican food cart, even a mariachi band that stopped in to play for a few hours. His visuals were surrounded by spray painted sombreros and mirrored by another wall with more sombreros with faded light beams.

"They're like the first illegal alien spaceships crossing the desert," Cota says.

On the bottom of each sombrero is an eye-like shape, which Cota says is a varient on a Mayan glyph of a "drop in the lake."  The symbol's become somewhat of a signature for the artist, but he says with the sombreros, the eyes (always watching) are intentional.

Drawing the cover, he says, was pretty easy and was a collaborative process with New Times' Art Director, Peter Storch. Cota drew a Phoenix skyline with a sombrero "invasion" over a praying cactus and mountain landscape to the right. He says Storch added the "alien-ish" red lights, and treatment on the title and background.

Since the installation, Cota's produced posters and stickers of "The Invasion" (we picked one up at Pravus Gallery on Roosevelt Street).

There's word of the sombreros making an appearance this weekend, during the SB 1070 anniversary march at Cesar Chavez plaza in downtown Phoenix. March or not, Cota says, the sombreros will soon be on a wall near you.

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