News Column

Young Latina Artists exhibit features all-female group for first time

June 29, 2014

By Nancy Flores, Austin American-Statesman



June 29--

As a teenager, Nanibah Chacon dove into Albuquerque's graffiti scene, painting walls for about 10 years before becoming a mother. After the birth of her son, the Chicana and Dine (Navajo) artist turned to studio painting and then mural making, which blends elements of indigenous, American and Latino cultures.

Her striking installation work, now prominently displayed at the Mexic-Arte Museum, is among the artwork featured in the 19th annual Young Latina Artist exhibit, which opened this month and runs through September. And this year, for the first time since the exhibit for artists under 35 began, YLA features an all-female group of Latina artists.

Fresh viewpoints and experimental pieces like Chacon's have made the annual event popular for nearly two decades, and the latest exhibit titled "Y, QuÉ?" or "So, What?" expresses the boldness and unapologetic attitude of guest curators from the MÁs Rudas Chicana Collective of San Antonio.

The MÁs Rudas name has multiple definitions for the collective, including to be tough and defiant, challenging the view of women as subordinate. With this in mind, they selected diverse participants who utilize everything from performance art to illustration to convey themes such as cultural identity, sexuality and U.S.-Mexico border experiences.

Although the artists all share similar cultural and generational experiences, their distinct approaches and voices reflect the tapestry of diversity within contemporary Latina art.

"It's an interesting time for Latino art and YLA captures what's going on with notions of the border, alternative materials, emphasis on technology and how each generation is handling that," says Claudia Zapata, curator of exhibitions and programs at Mexic-Arte.

Senalka McDonald, a Panamanian visual artist, brings a multilayered installation that includes a video of what at first glance appears to be an infomercial for a CD box set of popular songs. But McDonald actually reinterpreted pop-rock songs that the U.S. military played full blast during the day and night to force then-dictator Manuel Noriega to surrender during the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama.

Other artists examined subjects such as life and death. Daphne Arthur, a Yale alumna, has a haunting wire mesh, latex and fur sculpture "El Juego del Tra Tra" on display. "(It's) part of a body of work created in 2009, a period of time spent responding and reflecting upon ideas of the body, its futility and its temporal susceptibility," Arthur says. She says she felt a kind of epiphany as a high school student in New York about becoming a visual artist while working on a mural at her school. "I can't explain it other than by saying that I felt a moment of clarity while creating, its the same impetus that keeps me going up to now," she says. "I feel most balanced when making art."

YLA's mentorship format, both for artists and the guest curators, has created a supportive learning environment for many artists, especially those who have never had a museum show before. Mexic-Arte works closely with the participants to offer guidance leading up to the show.

"It's one thing to create the artwork and another thing to think about the logistics, such as how you want the lighting to be, height, how to work with a curator and just being a professional," Zapata says.

Throughout the years YLA has served as a launching pad for many artists, and several alumni of the exhibit have gone on to gain wider recognition, such as Rafael Vargas-Suarez Universal, a Mexican-born artist currently living in New York and working internationally. "It's an impromptu academy that creates a community," Zapata says. "YLA is super experimental, and this is the time when we see what each generation is bringing."

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IF YOU GO

Young Latina Artists 19 exhibit "Y, QuÉ?"

When: Now through Sept. 7

Where: Mexic-Arte Museum, 419 Congress Ave.

Admission: $5 for adults, $4 senior citizens and students, $1 children 12 and under, free on Sundays

YLA 19 artists include: Natalia Anciso, Daphne Arthur, Nani Chacon, Audrya Flores, Suzy Gonzalez, Alexis Herrera, Las Hermanas Iglesias, Annette Martinez, Senalka McDonald, Awilda Rodriguez Lora, Cristy C. Road, Linda LucÍa Santana and Fabiola Torralba. For more information, visit mexic-artemuseum.org.

ĦAhora SÍ!

Get more coverage of the Austin area's Hispanic community every week in our free Spanish-language edition, ĦAhora SÍ!, and online at ahorasi.com.

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Source: Austin American-Statesman (TX)


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