Digital Prints | 48 x 17 in | 2015-16
My art is a documentation of Border Culture. Border Culture is often defined as a blending of “White” and Mexican cultures; as both an imagined and identifiable geographic area that visually and linguistically blends the two cultures together. Although border cultures exist in other places, I have chosen to focus on the Rio Grande Valley (RGV), where I grew up. I refer to this fragmented cultural fusion as “Valley Cultura” or “Valley Culture.” My digital art is a visual interpretation of Valley Cultura. It is as much a personal documentation and exploration of my struggle to redefine self and find place and connection within the Mexican culture and heritage as it is a visual account of the thriving culture unique to the border areas of the United States.
My desire to celebrate the combined cultures stems not only from my love of the Valley, but also from my personal experience with adoption. I was adopted as an infant to a loving White couple with only one piece of information about my biological heritage being passed to my adoptive parents through my caseworker. The information provided was that my grandmother or great-grandmother was Mexican. As was common during the time, my adoption was closed, which meant that all records concerning both parties were sealed.
The Border is a metaphor for me on many levels. It reflects a psychological impasse; an internal boundary that fails to be breached. The “other side” has a fantastical and somewhat surreal element where there is a longing to fit, find residence and blend with my surroundings. A Border can be defined as: an “other;” a story unfamiliar, unknown, feared, rejected, formerly dismissed. A divide. Closed adoption has created a divide; a communication barrier between myself and my biological cultural heritage. Valley Cultura provides me with a malleable and flexible space that allows the blending and melding to occur freely in my art through objects, textures and colors.
Another aspect that is involved in my desire to blend (personify and visualize the beauty of the combined cultures) is my daughter, Elizabeth. She is also adopted. Elizabeth’s adoption is not closed, it is open. Her birth mother is Mexican and her birthfather is White.
Together, these stories have fueled my art and driven my desire to document the beauty in the TexMex or Spanglish of combined English and Spanish spoken and written on signage throughout the RGV. The beauty and paradox of the hybrid images I create are a spiritual dialogue of self and place as well as a documentation of the creative process of re-envisioning and re-defining cultural identity. The majority of my work begins with images from recent photographs, as well as photographs taken when I first began this project almost fifteen years ago, of areas along the border and in the RGV of flea markets, religious icons, popular culture and street and storefront signage superimposing and layering them together creating a new space; digitally manipulating objects, colors and textures to create new vibrant landscapes that transcend both cultures to formValley Cultura.
Culture is not devoid of people, but I have kept them at a distance and instead replaced them with objects, imposing my personal story onto them, allowing them to bridge my divide. Objects that cross borders, tactile things that are real to replace the unknown and unanswered questions. My over saturation of color is the embodiment of the vibrant landscape of the RGV and represents a tendency for me to want to overcompensate for missing information and a lack of understanding. My goal is to transcend borders and create beauty I didn’t see before, helping to change ingrained perspectives; trying to “see” in a new way. Through my art I strive to decontaminate, analyze, even deconstruct in order to form a new visual heritage, a new image of combined culture – Valley Cultura.
About the Materials & Process
I currently describe myself as an artist and graphic designer. I have and continue to have difficulty combining and aligning the two terms. I like to think of this work as a blending on many levels, including that of art and design. I use techniques I acquired from printmaking and photography as well as the design world.
I thrive while working with the digital form. The screen becomes both my sketchbook and canvas, allowing me to brainstorm, experiment and work through my images seamlessly moving from concept to production. I never know what my finished piece will look like when I begin.
The process of developing as I work is therapeutic and evident in my art. Bits and pieces of information are cut, added, re-sized, duplicated, layered and juxtaposed in modern collage, as my visual dialogue takes shape. Intuitively and through experimentation, I find the combinations that resonate with me as my work becomes voice.
My images are never fully realized until they are printed and that process of initial test prints always fills me with nervous excitement and anticipation, while I wait to see if everything I’ve done on screen translates to reality. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s just a matter of color adjustment and other times I’ve had to abandon the image altogether and start over.
The “ground” or surface I print my images on is also very important to me. Different paper textures and surfaces absorb the inks in different ways giving the image a different look and feel. What I love about the aluminum is that it allows the images to radiate much like they do from the screen. They are translucent, allowing the viewer to “see through” to the metal surface and at the same time, as the light hits it, the ink, infused with the metal, takes on a life of its own. For me it gives a 3-D effect to the work and accurately translates the vitality I strive for in Valley Cultura.