Border Crossing

Images of resilience


What: Community Art Museum Day

When: 12 pm Sat., Apr. 29

Where: Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building, 250 Flora St.

Cost: $3


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Despite the fact that he’s been pushing for a viewing of Whatcom Museum’s “Images of Resilience: Chicana/o Art and its Mexican Roots,” exhibit for the past month, I had to assure my date I’d treat him to a post-tour lunch to get him out the front door last Sunday.

It turns out I shouldn’t have promised to part with my dineros quite so quickly. After we’d done our first walk-through of the thought-provoking show, my fella informed me that not only did he love everything about the exhibit—the colors, the messages and the artistry itself—but also that he’d be perfectly happy living in the gallery for a while.

I agreed. From the moment I walked into the Lightcatcher and saw Alfredo Arreguin’s “La Alameda,” I was hooked. The giant oil painting of Frida Kahlo flanked by a much-smaller Diego Rivera and a festively festooned skeleton was a riot of color. The underlapping images of flowers and butterflies could’ve made the work cacophonous, but instead had me wondering what the story was behind the subject matter.

In fact, the entire exhibit tells a tale. In exploring the development of Chicana/o art from its beginnings in Mexican art of the early 20th century, to the Chicana/o movement of the 1960s and ’70s, to its current relevance, viewers get a glimpse of how the art form has changed—and also how at least some of it has stayed the same.

For example, a missive next to a party of festive paper mache skeletons made by the late Pedro Linares—including a guitar player, two revelers and a couple of small dogs—pointed out that the artist and his family are considered national treasures in Mexico and beyond. After learning the craft from his own father and becoming known for his skills during the 1950s, Pedro passed on his talents to his sons and grandsons, who continue to create works of art for collectors, museums and more. Nearby, Leonardo Linares’ clever “Skeleton, Newspaper Boy” shows that the familial talent is intact.

At a Community Art Museum Day taking place from 12-4pm Sat., April 29 at the Lightcatcher, visitors can get more details about the Linares family, and about the long history behind the “Images of Resilience.”

In addition to celebrating the variety of identities making up our diverse community, the all-ages event will feature guided tours of the exhibit and various art projects, and provide more of a context of how artists like Diego Rivera influenced those who came after them—including contemporary artists such as Patssi Valdez, Ester Hernandez, Carmen Lomas Garza, Gronk, Enrique Chagoya, Frank Romero, and more.

“Within the context of the Chicana/o movement for social justice, artists took their place in creating images and forms of art that would help enlist others in this movement for human rights,” artist and scholar Amalia Mesa-Bains says.

You’ll see this evolution in pieces like Rupert Garcia’s 1979 painting, “Assassination of a Striking Mexican Worker;” “Sun Mad,” Ester Hernandez’ depiction of a skeletal farm worker affected by pesticides;  and Cecilia Concepsion Alvarez’ “An Offering for Healthy Youth and Culture, or Way of Life,” painted in 2005.

But, as anyone who’s ever crossed the border to Mexico knows, the images of struggle and change are also interspersed with joy and hope—which I guess is where the “resilience” in the title comes from.

My date and I discussed the exhibit at length over a margarita and meal at Jalapenos, and we both agreed we needed to see it again before it leaves town at the end of May to further solidify our findings. Next time, he’s buying lunch.

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