Vibrant Chicano art on display in art gallery

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An exhibit showcasing the vibrancy of Chicano Art in the forms of paper maches, silver jewelry, paintings, ceramics, installations and new media pieces opened with a reception at the CSUN Main Art Gallery Oct. 15.

The “Mirando al Sur/Miranda al Norte” exhibition showcases 54 artists, including 27 from Los Angeles who interpreted the work of 27 Mexican folk artists for the show.

“I’ve been interested in Chicano art for a long time, and I’ve also been interested in Mexican folk art” said Kent Kirkton, professor and chair of the Journalism Department and co-curator for the event. “I can see that Chicano artists draw stuff from the folk art.”

The exhibition is funded in part by the Art, Journalism and Chicano/a Studies departments, the Center for Photojournalism and Visual History, Associated Students, and the Arts Council for CSUN. Telemundo, Wells Fargo and the L.A. Cultural Affairs Department also sponsored the event.

Co-curator of the exhibition, Sybil Venegas from East Los Angeles College, expressed gratitude for the concept of CSUN hosting an exhibit for popular Mexican art with Chicano interpretations.

“We would’ve taken the show anywhere,” she said. “It would be great to do it anywhere.”

Describing Chicano art, Venegas said it deals a lot with identity and politics, which are subjects that interest her.

One mixed media piece, “Maria” by artist David Flury is displayed in the gallery and features an illuminated look at the Virgin Mary. In the piece, the Virgin Mary is holding two flashlights in her arms, the white light sprouting forth.

“Sometimes it’s not good to talk about certain things or go over certain taboos,” he said. “You can’t do this or can’t do that, or the boogeyman is going to get you.”

For Flury, Chicano art is looked at as a positive thing.

“It’s a good way to express yourself, to keep you out of trouble, and do the right thing, and not only for the people around you, but yourself,” he said.

Flury believes that same positive energy that he sees through Chicano art is shown through the other art pieces that were in display

“I think that the work I see around me is very positive,” he said. “I feel that it has its own personality, its own energy, something I feel that is going to keep going.”

Venegas said she saw a lot of fun and energy in the pieces.

“The artist really enjoys participating and there was a lot of enthusiasm,” she said. “So when you go in the room and you see everything together, it kind of has a very up (or) positive sense to it. A lot of love.”

Adding to that atmosphere was the sound of mariachi music being played inside the main gallery where the pieces are displayed.

“It’s amazing,” said Ruben Zarazua, junior criminology major, and member of the mariachi group Los Rayos del Sol that played music at the event. “Its good to see our culture through paintings, especially (at) CSUN. Its great to see other cultures familiar (with) our culture.”

Zarazua said music is very big within Latino culture. Some of the pieces that were shown within the exhibit featured musical elements, such as an oil painting of famed guitarist Carlos Santana. Zarazua said that through music, Latinos are able to express their feelings and their struggle.

The reception also featured music from the band Willy Loya and the Trio de Alma.

Also in attendance at the event was Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was on campus in support of the Mayor’s 2005 Tradicion Youth Photography Project, which was featured in a separate art gallery near the main gallery.

Youth artists, ages 12 and older, displayed their black-and-white photography chronicling Latino life in Los Angeles. The project was in celebration of Latino Heritage Month, and was sponsored by Target and the Department of Cultural Affairs.

“The talent in this room is unlimited,” Villaraigosa said, in regards to the group of artists whose photos were on display. “The quality of the art is sensational.”

A a huge turnout of a diverse crowd came in support of the exhibition.

“That’s (Los Angeles), you know” Venegas said. “L.A. is a very multi-cultured place, and I think that Chicano art has really become much more visible, much more mainstream.”

Venegas said that 30 years ago a lot of institutions did not really understand Chicano art. She believes it is a lot more acceptable today and that people comprehend it. More importantly, she said, people like it.

“People are seeing things for what they are,” Flury said. “They’ve been here for a while. It’s a lot of people. It’s strange. It’s like a fairytale.”

The exhibit is open through Nov. 19.

John Barundia can be reached at jcb44123@csun.edu.