Chatting with Cheech

Chicano art and a collector worth knowing

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What does Cheech Marin think of the fact that Washington State recently legalized marijuana?

“It’s very cool,” says Marin, one half of the creative duo that single-handedly created the genre of stoner comedy in the late 1970s and early ’80s. “More and more states need to do that.”

And, although we spoke briefly of legalization and his recent onstage reunions with his off-again, on-again creative partner Tommy Chong, our short phone conversation had nothing much to do with Marin’s long and varied acting career, views on world issues or how much reefer he actually inhaled during the making of Cheech & Chong’s Up in Smoke. Instead, our connection was focused on art. 

You see, when he’s not busy acting, writing or pursuing a variety of other creative outlets, the Los Angeles-born Marin has managed to amass an enviable amount of Chicano art. In fact, it’s one of the largest private collections featuring contemporary Mexican-American artists in the United States.

“I discovered Chicano art about 25 years ago,” Marin says. “I’ve always been a collector—whether it was baseball cards, rocks or antiques—but at first, I just wanted to take the art home. Eventually, I started collecting it.”

Marin estimates he has about 500 pieces in his collection, only some of which can be found in his California residence. Others are either in storage or—lucky for us—on the road.

When “Chicanitas: Small Paintings from the Cheech Marin Collection {Size Doesn’t Matter}” opens Jan. 12 at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher Building, the amiable entertainer will be on hand to share details about exhibit. Later that night, he’ll also host a Q & A at the Pickford Film Center following a viewing of his 1987 movie, Born in East L.A.

Those who show up to see the exhibit—and Marin—will be introduced to the works of 26 painters showcasing 65 paintings, all of which average 16 inches square, or smaller.

“For the collector, the small paintings are the ones that remain with them throughout their lives,” Marin says in his collector’s statement. “They are the paintings that are always in their bedrooms or their kitchens of whatever room in which they spend the most time. The owners know every square inch of these paintings and can almost see them in the dark.”

Because he’s committed to introducing the work of the artists to the public, Marin is more than willing to share these intimate paintings—which, unlike a lot of his collection, focus more on the personal points of view of the artist rather than a response to political, social or cultural situations.

In addition to giving shout-outs to the many artists he believes deserve recognition, Marin stresses he wants people to leave the exhibit feeling that they know more about what the Chicano vision really is. “I want them to have a sense of the experience of being Chicano through a myriad of different viewpoints,” he says. 

And in case people get confused about the content of the exhibit and show up wanting to see an original Cheech Marin painting, they’ll be out of luck.

“I’m not a good graphic painter or drawer,” Marin says. “I was a professional potter for a time in my early 20s, and that fulfilled my art longing. I could probably learn more, but you have to know your limits.”

Ticket Cascadia
More Visual...
Indelible Images
Worlds of wonder at Whatcom Museum

Thanks to a recent viewing of the exhibit “Spineless: Portraits of Marine Invertebrates,”  I’m now convinced that an underwater denizen dubbed the “stubby squid” (Rossia pacifica) is my new spirit animal.

Like the dozens of other up-close-and-personal photographs taken by marine biologist…

more »
Story Paintings
David Kane’s tall tales

“Where does one go after reaching the pinnacle of artistic achievement—a solo retrospective at the Frye Museum?” asks the promo flyer for David C. Kane’s exhibit of his paintings at i.e. gallery in Edison.

Kane, a lifelong teacher of art, is a master of technique. His touch is light,…

more »
Skagit Scene
River Gallery’s seasonal visions

Twice a year, Sylvia Strong pulls together some of the best painting, sculpture, glass and jewelry from the Skagit region to show in her gallery, a well-lit former greenhouse. It affords plenty of space to display a selection of small, affordable pieces by 38 invited artists.


more »
Handling the truth


The Music Man

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Family Game Night

7:30pm|DUG Theater

Lynden Book Sale

10:00am|Lynden Library

Komo Kulshan Ski and Snowboard Swap

4:00pm|Bloedel Donovan Gymnasium

Gore and Lore Tours

6:00pm|Historic Fairhaven and downtown Bellingham

Arsenic and Old Lace

7:00pm|Ferndale High School

Skagit Community Band

7:30pm|Maple Hall and Brodniak Hal

Top of the food chain


12 Minutes Max Fall Showcase

7:30pm|Firehouse Performing Arts Center


8:00pm|Old Main Theater


8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Phenomenal Woman Cabaret

8:00pm|Cirque Lab

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Hall

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Make It & Take It

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

Twin Sisters Farmers Market

9:00am|Nugent's Corner

Cherry Point Forum

9:00am|Bellingham Technical College

Work Party

9:00am|Squalicum Creek

Scottish Highland Reel Competition

9:00am|Syre Center

Make a Difference Day

9:00am|Whatcom County

Fall Family Fun

10:00am|Glen Echo Garden

98221 Artists Studio Tour

10:00am|Anacortes and Guemes Island

Correspondence Club

10:00am|Mindport Exhibits

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|Peace Portal Drive

Bellingham Comicon

10:00am|Ferndale Event Center

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Harvest Happens

10:00am|Bellewood Acres

Community Meal

10:00am|United Church of Ferndale

Celebrating Vicky Marshall

10:00am|Bellingham Public Library

Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen

11:00am|Community Food Co-op

Cornhole Tournament

2:00pm|Boys & Girls Club of Whatcom County

Writing the Living Memoir

2:00pm|Ferndale Library


4:00pm|Bellingham Sportsplex

Wild & Scenic Film Festival

6:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Warfel Award Ceremony

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Contra Dance

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Skagit Symphony Gala Concert

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Whose Live Anyway?

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center

Just another hardcore troubadour


MBT Ben Folds Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Handling the truth


Lynden Book Sale

10:00am|Lynden Library

Skagit Community Band

7:30pm|Maple Hall and Brodniak Hal

98221 Artists Studio Tour

10:00am|Anacortes and Guemes Island

Harvest Happens

10:00am|Bellewood Acres

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

The Fungus Among Us

10:00am|North Lake Whatcom Park

Lynden Book Club

12:30pm|Lynden Library

Sunday Market

1:00pm|Alger Community Hall

Praise the Salmon

1:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Living Proof

4:00pm|Village Books

Benefit Variety Show

6:00pm|BAAY Theatre

Greg Proops

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Andrew Subin Northwood Steak and Crab
Handling the truth


Word Sprints

6:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

October Chores in the Garden

6:30pm|Skagit Valley Food Co-op

Crossing Zion

7:00pm|Deming Library


8:00pm|Bellingham Public Library


9:30pm|Green Frog

see our complete calendar »

MBT Ben Folds Bellingham Farmer’s Market Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Village Books MBT Ben Folds Swinomish 2016 Artifacts Wine Bar Everybody’s Store Andrew Subin Lydia Place Northwood Steak and Crab