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arts

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

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Latina/Latino American Art  
 
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Mis Madres (1986) is a tribute to Latina women. The work presents an elderly woman as the center of the universe. She stands in the cosmos, facing the viewer, holding the earth in her left hand.

David Zamora Casas

Mexican-American performance and visual artist David Zamora Casas (b. 1960) lives in San Antonio. Casas' work addresses his dual heritage, his gay Latino identity, and his life as an artist. During his stage performances, he uses his dynamic presence and intricately detailed costumes to transform himself from one character into another, for example from a screaming art apostle to a gay activist.

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Casas frequently explores in his painted works, which redefine traditional Mexican art since they combine previously disparate techniques and imagery.

Portrait of a Burnout (1993), for example, is a retablo that shows Casas wearing a blue skirt, a vibrantly striped shirt, pink wings, and a huge red Mexican sombrero. His skirt depicts the cosmos, including a shooting star, and he wears a necklace with an ankh, a symbol of eternal life, around his neck. Portrait of a Burnout may be interpreted as an icon of a modern day, androgynous saint.

Love has no Gender (1993) is comprised of a cross, an androgynous face, and a nude female torso painted on a horizontal strip of tin. Casas incised hearts, gender symbols, and the work's title into the tin surrounding the painted area. Tin cacti decorate each end, along with real, rotting and drying cacti. The decaying plants may allude to the cycle of renewal and therefore to the transformation innate to androgyny.

Luis Alfaro

Luis Alfaro, a Mexican-American performance artist, also uses art to explore androgyny. He sometimes wears outrageous women's outfits, including cheap, short black lace slips, while shouting hilarious poems that he has written. The street is Alfaro's theater, and he frequently accosts passersby, shouting at them to grab their attention.

Laura Aguilar

California-based lesbian artist Laura Aguilar (b. 1959) has made great visual use of her large body in a series of self-portraits that challenge both norms of physical beauty and concepts of national identity.

As the child of a mother who was part Mexican and part Irish, Aguilar is particularly sensitive to questions of multiple heritages. Some of these questions are apparent in Three Eagles Flying (1990), a triptych depicting herself naked bound by ropes, with the Mexican flag covering her face and the United States flag covering her lower torso.

Cuban Artists

Many artists, and especially homosexuals, made use of the Mariel boat lift, which shipped Castro's "unwanted" peoples from Havana in the 1980s.

Artist Cabrero Moreno (1923-1981), for example, as an active homosexual was declared an enemy of Castro's revolution. Art critic Rudi Bleys remarks of Moreno that "his interest in the male body went beyond the reticence of official discourse."

In the past few decades, many Cuban exiles and Cuban Americans have made their mark as artists. Of these, Juan González (1942-1992) was notable for his quest of a spiritualized androgyny, as in La Cuna (1976), which depicts a cradle but without a baby. He painted in an elegiac style with a subdued homoeroticism.

Jaime Bellechasse (1956-1993) created idealized drawings of nudes. These figures suggested his belief that the positive side of living in the United States outweighed the negative effects of racism.

Installation artist Félix González-Torres (1957-1995) confronted the tragedy of AIDS in his work and made many sly gay references. He moved to New York in 1979 and developed a unique style, characterized by a provocative conceptual wit. For example, his photograph Untitled (perfect lovers) (1991) depicted identical white-faced clocks that represented gay lovers.

Readily accepted by New York's avant-garde artistic community, González-Torres de-emphasized the figurative as he unsentimentally but movingly confronted his own debilitation as a result of AIDS.

Another Cuban installation artist, María Elena González (b. 1957), produced the thought-provoking Self Service (1996), in which a phallus called "Gloria" is attached to a wall and becomes normalized as a bathroom appliance. The work invites speculations about gender and sexuality. In her installations, González frequently returns to themes of ecology, cultural identity, and sexual politics.

Raúl Martínez (1927-1995) experimented with Pop Art, and in the process contributed to the development of the poster.

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