Suzy González and Sage Alucero are two contemporary Chicano/a/x artists who are part of an expanding group of Mexican-Americans who identify strongly with their Indigenous Mexican ancestry. Through choice of art medium, imagery, and historical location these artists create works that explore their indigenous connections in an effort to heal the generational scarring of colonization. A large part of the decolonization of their artwork and themselves as artists is the radical act of uncovering the past and internalizing the indigenous understandings that they have found. González does this through her choice of culturally significant media which she calls “Mestizx Media” and her practice of dietary non-violence, while Alucero does this through their location of queer and non-binary identity within indigenous histories and imagery.
View the Google Stories for Sage Alucero and Suzy González on the Latino Hub of Google Arts & Culture which will be featured as part of the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month
Suzy González (She/They) and Sage Alucero (They/He) are two contemporary Chicano/a/x artists who are part of an expanding group of Mexican-Americans who identify strongly with their Indigenous Mexican ancestry. Through choice of art medium, imagery, and historical location these artists create works that explore their indigenous connections in an effort to heal the generational scarring of colonization. A large part of the decolonization of their artwork and themselves as artists is the radical act of uncovering the past and internalizing the indigenous understandings that they have found. González does this through her choice of culturally significant media which she calls “Mestizx Media” and her practice of dietary non-violence, while Alucero does this through their location of queer and non-binary identity within indigenous histories and imagery.
“… in Native ways of knowing, human people are often referred to as ‘the younger brothers of Creation.’ We say that humans have the least experience with how to live and thus the most to learn—we must look to our teachers among the other species for guidance. Their wisdom is apparent in the way that they live. They teach us by example. They’ve been on the earth far longer than we have been, and have had time to figure things out.”
― Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
For González and Alucero, research and the gathering of knowledge is integral to their artistic expression. They are informed by authors such as Robin Wall Kimmerer, who is a member of the Potawatomi nation and writes on indigenous understandings of nature supported by her PhD in botany, and Gloria Anzaldúa who writes on her experiences as a queer Mestiza woman working through Borderland politics. The poetic influences of these authors can be seen within their work as well as a deep look into Mesoamerican history. They honor their artistic ancestors through the continued Chicano/a/x practice of mural painting, and examine the materials and imagery that they use closely to express their nepantla existence. But most importantly they take their lessons from nature. In both artists you can find a strong theme of being a part of nature in the most literal sense. For example in Alucero’s Teonanacatl you can see mushrooms emerge from the main figure’s fingertips emphasizing the physical and spiritual relationship between the human body and the mycelial body. In González’s work she uses dyed hojas de maiz (corn husks) as the skin of her subjects referring to the Mesoamerican belief that humans were created from maíz. This visual cue ties the figures not only to a people and history, but to the importance of the relationship we have with our food and our environment.
When Mexico was first colonized by the Spanish in 1519, one of the many major acts of colonial violence was to destroy the vast libraries of complex and comprehensive historic codexes created by the Mesoamerican people. Cutting a culture off from its history and traditions is detrimental to the survival of the people; assimilation becomes the only way for them to survive. Today, the act of locating oneself within an indigenous history has become a radical act, internalizing and expressing that history even more so. One such radical expression to reflect and reclaim a lost indigenous identity has been through the arts.
“Nothing happens in the ‘real’ world unless it first happens in the images in our heads.”
― Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza
A complexity emerges within the modern Mexican-American identity as to be Mexican often means that you are biracial; part European and part Indigenous or Indio. As González says, “we are the colonized and the colonizer in one body, and art can be a method of healing and coming to terms with this.” Both artists work to reconcile this mixture and decolonize their own bodies through their artwork. Alucero, a queer non-binary trans masculine person, has been finding understanding of their identity through their relationship to nature and their ancestry. Of this they say, “The gender binary has been imposed through colonial violence and my existence is something outside of that entirely.”
“Bridges are thresholds to other realities, archetypal, primal symbols of shifting consciousness. They are passageways, conduits, and connectors that connote transitioning, crossing borders, and changing perspectives. Bridges span liminal spaces between worlds, spaces I call nepantla, a Nahuatl word meaning tierra entre medio.”
― Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza
Instead of giving into a pressure to embrace one way of thinking over another, these two artists embrace nepantla, an in-betweenness that much of western culture rejects. Here they can embrace the wholeness of their identity by demonstrating within their art the way in which this mixed identity can exist within a modern space. Indigenous bodies and ideas are brought into the present through their choice of imagery, medium, and presentation. González’s figures are all presented in a very modern style of painting, expressed in bright blocks of color, however their message is ancient, a plea to return to being stewards of the earth and to find your place within the cycle of nature, not outside of it. Alucero expresses similar connections and ideals in their lush oil paintings of ancient figures and places, however contemporary imagery such as the top surgery scars in Romero / Rabbit are present within their work connecting their trans masculine identity to the past, further validating their contemporary existence.
A great function of art is to act as an intermediary to help communicate ideas so complex that words alone cannot convey the intricacies. The decolonization of anything is difficult as colonial ideas are insidious and permeate our very existence. We express them in what we wear, what we eat, how we view ourselves and others, and so many little ways that it feels like sorting grains of sand when we finally do take notice. Alucero and González come on the heels of earlier Chicano/a/x artists who expressed this mixed identity and the cultural collision of finding and translating their indigenous existence within a modern world. With each generation the message becomes clearer, and reaffirms the existence of contemporary indigeneity, and that Indigenous people do not only exist in the past and neither does their way of life.
“This land was Mexican once, was Indian always and is. And will be again.”
― Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza
—Nicole Rudolph-Vallerga is the 2022-23 Guest Curatorial Intern with Museo Eduardo Carrillo and a multimedia artist
Anzaldúa, Gloria. 1987. Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco, Spinsters/Aunt Lute.
Kimmerer, Robin Wall. 2016. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. Tantor Media, Inc.
Artist Statement Sage Alucero (they/he) is a multimedia visual and performance artist. Through oil painting, traditional and digital drawing, sculpture, poetry and performance he creates works with themes of interconnection with nature, gender expansiveness and more. It is the beautiful details of this green expansive world that Alucero is inspired by; roots and fractal shapes are prevalent in their work as a visual reminder that all of humanity is connected to our Earth and worlds beyond our current comprehension.
Through color and light their paintings reveal energy that is unseen by the naked eye, but perceived through our energetic auras. Decolonizing notions of gender identity is a central theme in their work. Just as there are infinite manifestations of life in nature, there are infinite ways of being in relation to femininity, masculinity, androgyny and/or personal expression. Alucero’s work often conveys the unification of such dualities and emphasizes how unity amplifies their power. Creating work that is loudly transgender and non-binary can be enough to urge their viewers to rethink the rigid roles which we as a community on Earth need to dismantle with agency and creativity.
Ancestry connects Alucero to their purpose in this lifetime. Supported by the processes of emotional alchemy, kinship with the land, herbalism, and Mesoamerican studies, Alucero seeks to bridge the gap created from lack of access to cultural traditions and ancestral lineage. It is with ancestry as a seed, that he works to tend to the wonder of life, as it is a garden asking to be nourished. In the cosmic cycles of life & death; sunrise & sunset; birth & rebirth; Alucero speaks through visual art as nourishment, creates realms to explore, composes referential metaphors, and casts spells of protection and empowered love.
Artist Statement Suzy González (she/they) is an artist, writer, self-publisher, curator, and organizer based in Yanaguana, aka San Antonio, TX. Her enthusiasm towards decolonizing consumption and art creation is intertwined with remembering the lessons that the earth has to teach us.
She works with natural plant materials like corn husks in conjunction with manipulated art supplies to consider identity, mixedness, and resistance. The corn husks represent the skin of the figures, recalling Mesoamerican beliefs that our very beings are created from maíz. This material use works to dismantle folk and fine art hierarchies. She calls these “mestizx media” works, reclaiming the “mestizo” colonial caste label. She defines mestizx media as when materials originate from the region(s) of the artist’s ancestors. Accepting mixedness is also about embracing queerness and the fluid nature of identities that reject constructed binaries. Her public artwork has included themes of celebrating contemporary artists and activists, histories of the land, native plants and animals, and concepts of love and solidarity. Her work serves to work through her own intersections and to strive for intercultural conversations in her communities. This, she hopes, will open doors to compassion and healing in this world of destruction.
In Memoriam: Betsy Andersen, Museo Eduardo Carrillo Executive Director
This exhibit is dedicated to the memory of Betsy Andersen who spent her life supporting and promoting the arts. This was the last exhibit that she worked on and her encouragement and mentorship was invaluable to the development and success of this show.
Museo Eduardo Carrillo thanks documentary filmmaker, Pedro Pablo Celedon, for the introduction to Los Angeles artists Peter Liashkov and Marianne Sadowski and through them, Nguyen Ly.
These three artists come from many parts of the world and felicitously met in Los Angeles. Find out more by reading Dianna Santillano’s thought provoking essay which looks deeply at the art.
In their work they address their own migrations, the reverberations of newness and not being of a place, becoming of a place…
They also see in their chosen southern California community those people around them that are unhoused. They find empathy in and parallel to the issues of un-rootedness, searching for anchor and harbor.
This exhibition brings together three L.A. artists from different continents whose life and works have been informed by their diasporic identities. Mining from personal and observed experiences, the art of Nguyen Ly, Peter Liashkov and Marianne Sadowski explore diverse types of displacements in poetic and deeply poignant visual memoires.
The artworks featured in DIS–PLACED are experimental, both in technique and materiality. Their approach is one that is rooted in printmaking and yet Ly, Liashkov, and Sadowski push this medium to new frontiers, as if crafting a new visual language. Their art is layered and textured, utilizing mixed media, and ranging from two and three dimensional forms to installation. The handmade and conceptual acuity is the strong and unifying element among these artists. Through the process of reworking, layering and reconstituting archival materials and photographic images through various print methods, these artists are also producing knowledge, allowing these artworks to communicate epistemological meaning born of personal memory and testimony. This approach endows their work with a patina of nostalgia while being in conversation with today’s sociopolitical dialogues and neocolonialism.
Indeed, Ly, Liashkov, and Sadowski correlate transnational politics and the effects of capitalism with the personal in a creative practice that is immersed in reflection and memory. In the case of Nguyen Ly, his work weaves together printmaking, sculpture / installations and stitching. His art investigates his trajectory from post-Vietnam war, where his family fled as refugees when he was a child, to eventually getting sponsored and coming to the U.S. The origins of these lithographs were based on old family photos – which triggered Ly’s blocked childhood memories. NL6. Pants, 2012 and NL5. Shirt, 2006 are beautifully crafted clothing, perhaps a nod to his father who was a tailor, made out of paper lithography, old family photos and recycled tea bags ⎯ all threaded together to resemble the traditional clothing of his grandmother. Every element here signals towards his process-based approach to artmaking and harkens back to inquiries about his family’s journey and cultural traditions.
As in Ly’s work, Peter Liashkov’s practice is also infused by memory and movement across continents due to war and the subsequent cultural and linguistic negotiations. Born in France to Russian refugee parents (his father fought in WWI), his family fled to Argentina when he was a boy as a way to evade the communist threat. At age 15, Liashkov and his family relocated once again, this time ending up in the U.S. His work thus reflects these childhood transitions, mapping geographic borders, displacement and subsequent adaptations to new languages and cultures. Utilizing a variety of media, Liashkov uses images of his childhood superimposed with archival documents, and rendered in a way as to look like old relics. Foot Hold 1, 2014, is a collage print comprised of Xeroxed photographs of his father, immigration papers and letters on a Pellon cloth made to look like crumpled paper, giving this work the look and feel of age. Superimposed on these archival materials is the artist’s foot, as if inserting himself and his life’s trajectory and movement into his family’s past, connecting him to the history that has always left him feeling like he had one foot here and one foot there. This feeling is one shared by many with similar pasts never quite feeling like he fully belonged to one place or the other; A well-known feeling among “subjects formed in-between”, to quote Homi Bhabha.
In a different but congruent experience of displacement, the art of Marianne Sadowski brings focus to the current unhinged homeless situation in Los Angeles. Born in Mexico City, Sadowski hails from a Mexican mother and a German father who left East Germany for West Germany and thereafter moved to Venezuela, eventually settling in Mexico. This led Sadowski to explore the concept of home, one’s constant search for a home and the desire to create that home space. Her work explores the question what is ‘home’ in a city that has been plagued with displacement in the hands of gentrification.
As with the work of Ly and Liashkov, Sadowski’s work is multi-faceted, utilizing photographic images and drawings to create multimedia prints and remarkable codex-like artist books, as in Street Blues, 2020. However, in contradistinction to Ly and Liashkov, she utilizes her own photographs taken over many years to document the reality of the streets of L.A. and its homeless situation. In Home-less LA-Sideview, 2021, Sadowski transforms her photos of homeless encampments into vintage-looking cyanotypes. Using the postcard format, she visually dispels the notions of L.A. as a glamourous and desirable city. Instead, she depicts the ground level reality and the ubiquitous nature of the unhoused in the city.
In Life on the street III, 2021, an image of an unhoused man and his belongings is superimposed on various maps of Los Angeles, including an old map of the Mexican and Spanish land grants. By juxtaposing these images, Sadowski makes connections across time and space and demonstrates two types of displacements within this geographic terrain. She aligns historic displacements with the current unhoused phenomena, both of which, for Sadowski, are a result of systemic and institutionalized corporate/government greed.
Whether it is due to migration resulting from wars of the past, or current socio-economic factors that produce displacement and injustice, this exhibition brings into dialogue both their subsequent and continued legacies. In these deeply personal works, Nguyen Ly, Peter Liashkov and Marianne Sadowski open us up to consider how the political affects the personal and how from personal testimony, new ways of knowing and understanding emerge.
Celebrate Hispanic/LatinxHeritage month with with a visit to Museo Eduardo Carrillo’s Califas Legacy Project on Google Arts & Culture.
Get to know the work of Amalia Mesa-Bains, Ralph D’Oliveira, Carmen Leon, and Yermo Aranda. You will also discover Califas: The Ancestral Journey/ El Viaje Ancestral, a moveable mural book produced by Felicia Rice, Moving Parts Press, in collaboration with Museo Eduardo Carrillo.
The Califas Legacy Project online exhibition, offered by the Santa Cruz Art League (SCAL) and Museo Eduardo Carrillo, tells an untold story of Chicano/a/x artists living in the Central California Coastal region. This exhibition includes artworks by Guillermo (Yermo) Aranda, Ralph D’Oliveira, Carmen León, and Amalia Mesa-Bains. We expand the geographic art historical narratives about Latino artists in the United States that are primarily centered in large, urban environments such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago.
The Califas Legacy Project has unified the Monterey Bay Crescent through public retrospective and multi-generational exhibitions, zoomed in opportunities, streetside art viewing, portable murals, documentary videos, panel discussions, and a Latinx-based symposium. In 1982, Professor Eduardo Carrillo conceived of the “Califas: Chicano Art and Culture in California” conference to bring together artists, scholars, and creative social instigators to take stock of La Raza y El Movimiendo after several decades of political awakening and action. Together with Philip Brookman, Tomas Ybarra Frausto, and Juventino Esparza, he assembled a remarkable group for a multi-day symposium. They argued and agreed that the Chicano movement in all its variety and manifestations was very much alive and needed continued nurturance.
Now, almost forty years later, the Califas Legacy Project features the art and ideas of our region’s Chicano/a/x and Latinx creative leaders, the elders in the movement.
Our commitment is to secure the preservation of these artists’ legacies and awaken a new generation to the richness of the Monterey Bay Crescent artists contributions. Theirs is an un-contained influence – linking the powerful social movements of the 1960s to the next generation of Latinx and other artists. The exhibition surveys work from over four decades per artist, thereby sharing their artistic evolution and making visible what has been here all along.
The Califas Legacy Project fills a vacant part of American art history.
Guillermo (Yermo) Aranda is an elder and wisdom keeper of the history and ancestral teachings for Chicano/Native/Mexica identified peoples. He was the co-founder of El Centro Cultural de La Raza, a cultural art center focusing on Latino and Indigenous Art forms. As the Centro’s first Administrative Director, Aranda initiated the Chicano Park Murals in San Diego in 1973. Chicano Park is now recognized by the City of San Diego and the State of California as an historical site.
Ralph D’Oliveira has painted more than 100 murals in California and abroad during his 40+ year career as a muralist. He has done dozens of projects with schools and school children. In 2013, he traveled to Norway to do a mural project in Trondheim. He coordinates his projects collaboratively with neighbors and students in schools. He views all these projects as a way to build community. Ralph draws on his multicultural background incorporating native Chumash and Mexican roots.
Carmen León is a painter and teacher of art. In 1975-76, she was involved with a grassroots arts center, the Academia del Arte Chicano de Azlan, painting some of the first murals in Watsonville. In 1985, she began teaching art in the schools, focusing her involvement with the Latino community and drawing on her Peruvian and Mexican heritage. León was one of the co-founders of Galeria Tonantzin in San Juan Bautista, CA, a venue for women’s art.
Amalia Mesa-Bains is a curator, author, visual artist, and educator. In her home altars, ofrendas, and writing, she examines the formation of Chicana identity and aesthetic practices, the shared experiences of historically-marginalized communities in the United States, especially among women of color, and the role of multiculturalism within museums and cultural institutions. Her work is in collections worldwide and in 1992 she was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship.
Zoom Reception: February 3, 2020 @ 4:00-5:00pm | Register Here
The reception will feature a tour of the virtual exhibition hub, website, and a panel discussion with Amalia Mesa-Bains, Philip Brookman, and others.
The Califas Legacy Project has unified the Monterey Bay Crescent through public retrospective and multi-generational exhibitions, zoomed in opportunities, streetside art viewing, portable murals, documentary videos, panel discussions, and a Latinx-based symposium.
The Califas Legacy Project grew out of the recognition that our region represents an opportunity to fill in a missing piece of American art history. The story of Chicano/a art on the Central Coast is decades long, rich and varied.
In 1982, Professor Eduardo Carrillo conceived of the “Califas: Chicano Art and Culture in California” conference to bring together artists, scholars, and creative social instigators to take stock of La Raza y El Movimiendo after several decades of political awakening and action. Together with Philip Brookman, Tomas Ybarra Frausto, and Juventino Esparza, he assembled a remarkable group for a multi-day symposium. They argued and agreed that the Chicano movement in all its variety and manifestations was very much alive and needed continued nurturance.
Now, almost forty years later, the Califas Legacy Project features the art and ideas of our region’s Chicano/a/x and Latinx creative leaders, our elders in the movement and the next generation artists across the Monterey Bay Crescent.
The nine organizations participating in the Califas Legacy Project
Museo Eduardo Carrillo
Monterey Museum of Art
Moving Parts Press
Santa Cruz Art League
Santa Cruz Public Libraries
Watsonville Public Library
UCSC Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery
UCSC Institute of Arts and Sciences
UCSC Library Special Collections & Archives SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
Museo Eduardo Carrillo TITLE: The Califas Legacy Project (online retrospective of Califas Legacy artists with video vignettes and the book, Califas The Ancestral Journey/ El Viaje Ancestral)
DATES: March 5, 2021 ongoing
ADDRESS: museoeduardocarrillo.org and Google Arts & Culture
CONTACT: Betsy Andersen firstname.lastname@example.org
Monterey Museum of Art TITLE: The Califas Legacy Project: The Ancestral Journey/El Viaje Ancestral
Virtual exhibit of CALIFAS artists, partners, and the book, along with other Moving Parts Press books)
DATES: January 8 – April 11, 2021
ADDRESS: 559 Pacific St, Monterey, CA 93949
CONTACT: Allyson Hitte email@example.com Programming TBA
Santa Cruz Public Libraries TITLE: Califas: The Ancestral Journey/El Viaje Ancestral
(Series of banners displayed in street facing windows with the book displayed inside)
DATES: January 8, 2021 ongoing
ADDRESS: 224 Church St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Contact: Diane Cowen firstname.lastname@example.org and Susan Nilsson email@example.com Programming TBA
Watsonville Public Library TITLE: Califas: The Ancestral Journey/El Viaje Ancestral
(Series of banners displayed in outward facing windows in the City Hall rotunda with the book displayed inside)
DATES: January 8, 2021 ongoing
ADDRESS: 275 Main St, Watsonville, CA 95076
CONTACT: Alicia Martinez firstname.lastname@example.org Programming TBA
Brief description of the event: In June 2020, book artist Felicia Rice completed her most recent piece, The Necropolitics of Extraction. Two months later the book, along with Rice’s studio, was destroyed by the wildfires that ravaged the Santa Cruz Mountains. The only extant copies of the work are those that had already found homes in various institutions across the country. Despite this massive loss Rice’s work continues as Moving Parts Press works to rise through the ashes. Rice’s work has always hinged on collaboration and community in order to explore and comment on some of the most tangled issues of our time, from questions surrounding identity to the sustainability of our planet. This event invites a number of her closest collaborators, including UCSC Arts Faculty, T.J. Demos and Jennifer González to join Rice in conversation about her work, the process of collaboration and the impact of the medium of artists’ books.
We thank the generous sponsors of the Califas Legacy Project
Museo Eduardo Carrillo invites you to a virtual group show of the 2020 Eduardo Carrillo Scholarship Winners. The Eduardo Carrillo Scholarship, established in 1997 in memory of UC Santa Cruz Art Professor Emeritus and famed Chicano muralist Eduardo Carrillo, is awarded to the most talented emerging student-artists in the Art Department. Since its inception, the scholarship has benefited over 300 students.