Story by Joe Vinduska
The Shafer Art Gallery will host a “fiesta reception” to kick off the traveling exhibit Estamos Aqui from 6-8 p.m. Friday, June 27 featuring contemporary serigraphs by 40 artists, who create from the Latino/Chicano perspective as well guest exhibits in the same vain from local artists Humberto Saenz of Wichita and Hugo Gonzalez of Great Bend. The event will include authentic Mexican food, live mariachi music, cultural dance and children’s activities.
Estamos Aqui Exhibit
Featuring vivid colors and sometimes startling imagery, the works in the exhibit encourage audiences to ask questions about the nature of cross-cultural exchange and discover how artists find their voices through personal experiences that become part of the artistic process.
The artists featured in the exhibit took an opportunity to learn a specialized silkscreen print technique during a collaborative Austin-based residency. The resulting portfolio of prints expresses their celebrations, sorrows, challenges, popular culture and personal experiences.
The visual language drawn from varied traditions — including family and religious symbols, political motifs, the Mexican Luche Libre matches, neighborhood (barrio) themes, and Mexican graphic traditions — enlivens the aesthetic dialogue of the exhibition. In addition to 40 framed prints, Estamos Aquí is accompanied by fully bilingual gallery text and labels, as well as a short film that outlines the artistic process.
“An exhibit like this contains imagery that is sometimes surprising and even disturbing,” Shafer Gallery Director Dave Barnes said. “Fortunately, the folks at ExhibitsUSA have done a great job of describing the works and putting everything into context.”
The traveling exhibit is curated and organized by Brad Cushman, curator and gallery director at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The exhibition is toured by ExhibitsUSA (www.eusa.org), a national program of Mid-America Arts Alliance, which sends more than 25 exhibitions on tour to more than 100 communities across the country every year. M-AAA (www.maaa.org) is the oldest nonprofit regional arts organization in the United States.
Saenz is a native of Mexico and works as an assistant professor, graduate faculty and area head of printmaking at Wichita State University. He teaches introductory, intermediate and advanced level printmaking courses.
“My art aims to empower the viewer with knowledge about immigration issues which have affected and segregated Mexican immigrant communities,” he said in his artist statement. “The immigration issue within the political consciousness has fragmented the voice of the American culture to one of dissent and superiority. The issues that interest me within this strife are tradition, politics, and the immigrant struggle. My imagery depicts issues, which affect the community through the appropriation of mythological stories, and contemporary immigrant issues. Within my imagery the piñata is a signifier of the Mexican culture and the Mexican immigrants. The ‘piñatafication’ of the figures represents the objectification of minorities and points to the loss of culture, identity, and the division of disenfranchised immigrant communities.”
For more information on Saenz, go to humbertosaenz.com.
Born in Mexico in 1976, Gonzalez moved to the United States and became a Barton County resident in 1992. He is an artist, graphic designer and photographer. He does a lot of work using charcoal.
“Half Tones” is his latest series of charcoal drawings. “We are always in search of our better half and for many, searching for the better half can be a challenge,” Gonzalez comments in his artist statement. “For me as an artist, the better half is happiness. Happiness is a state of mind that gives us the sense of freedom, well-being, joy, fulfillment, prosperity and pleasure. It is a fundamental feeling that each one of us is entitled to pursue and fulfill. Unfortunately, not everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the feeling of happiness for different reasons. ‘Half Tones’ is a series of charcoal drawings that depict real life situations and events which prevent some people from seeking the fundamental right of being happy. Figures in the drawings, therefore, are rendered only in part; their better half yet to be found.”
The Shafer Gallery is open Tuesday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. Admission is free. The exhibit will be up through August 10.