Proteccion by Regina Román
Rios: What elements of your identity do you explore in your art?
Both my parents grew up in rural environments. My father grew up on a farm in Morelos, Mexico and moved here as an adult. My mother’s family worked as migrant workers and lived off the same land for hundreds of years on what is now the Texas/Mexico border, and she proudly identifies as Xicana.
There is a strong connection with the earth and a pride in our cultural history but I was always very resistant to being labeled a ‘Xicanx artists’. I was afraid of being pigeon-holed and dismissivley reduced to stereotypes. I wanted freedom from that. But It became obvious very quickly by observing the type of work that was coming out of me, that at this point in my life I had a need to explore the role my heritage and my cultura has played in my formation.
Doing so has allowed to me to pick out the identities that have been imposed on me, address those stereotypes and to redefine and reclaim them in ways that are empowering. It’s very possible that in a few years I’ll be creating completely different work, but for now its very much a project about understanding the Xicana experience. And the label no longer bothers me. It’s part of who I am.
As I’ve become stronger and more comfortable with my voice, I’ve been able to turn my focus more outward. So much of the work is incredibly personal, but there is now a much more intentional examination of social, cultural and political issues than before.
The new series addresses spirituality. Ive taken colonial catholic iconography such as the Santos and explored modernizing, decolonizing and personalizing them in ways that are much more relevant to my reality. In the first few paintings in the series, that I’m releasing later this month, I explore (among other things) immigration and displacement issues, the feminicidios in Juarez, sexual violence and these icons that we so proudly champion as ‘cultura’ like the Virgen de Guadalupe, but that are still very much rooted in the bloodshed and forced conversion of our ancestors.I hope that people will see these images as empowering and recognize both the beauty and violence of our cultural history and the range of issues we still face today. It’s a series I hope to continue working on for several years.
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