Artist Spotlight: Hector Silva
BY Christopher Harrity
July 30 2011 4:00 AM ET
Hector Silva is a self-taught artist based in Los Angeles who has been producing work for more than 25 years. Born in Ocotlan, Jalisco, in Mexico, he moved to the United States at the age of 17. He began drawing in his late 20s when he discovered his own talent. Today, Hector's work is collected internationally and has received acclaim in the U.S. and abroad. Living in Los Angeles with its rich Latino/Chicano culture, Hector draws from the Latino tradition. Among his influences are religious iconography, Frida Kahlo, M.C. Escher, Tom of Finland, and Chicano prison art. Hector explores themes of cultural identities, eroticism, and beauty. His mastery of light and shadow on skin is captured on paper with pencil.
Recent group and solo exhibitions include a retrospective at the One Institute/University of Southern California and shows at Highways Performance Space; the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, Calif.; City of Buena Park [Calif.] Council Chamber; the Museum of Mexican American Art in Chicago; the Autry National Center and the Southwest Museum of the American Indian in Los Angeles; the Museo Hispano de Nevada; the Erotic Heritage Museum in Nevada; DePaul University in Chicago; and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Currently Hector is a resident artist at ChimMaya Gallery in east Los Angeles.
His work is featured in Triumphs of Our Communities: 4 Decades of Mexican American Art and The Cisco Kid: American Hero, Hispanic Roots and on the cover of Good Bandits, Warrior Women and Revolutionaries in Hispanic Culture, published by the Hispanic Research Center at Arizona State University. He has also been featured in the journal Dialogo from the Center for Latino Research at DePaul University and in La Gente de Aztlan newspaper from the University of California, Los Angeles. In 2009 Stanford University acquired Hector's work for its Latin American, Mexican-American, and Iberian collections.
“If no one’s trying to censor you, then you’re probably not doing anything that important.”
I explore themes of cultural identity, because as Latinos, we are often erased from the social portrait. and then when you add being queer to that, we can really disappear. But I also think that the “positive image” strategy can be a trap, and as an artist, I feel responsible for showing art that is not only beautiful but truthful.
I want my work to be accessible, always giving the viewer a way into the image. I feel that “high art” often excludes people, and I am strongly against that. I think art should invite people in and engage them in a conversation, aesthetic, political, philosophical, erotic, whatever.
When I make art, my intended audience is not only the person that attends museums and galleries. I feel very strongly that art belongs in the streets. Putting art in the streets has been part of Latino culture for a long time, and we see it all the time, from murals to graffiti. I consider myself part of that tradition. I think art belongs in the street, and on the street is a lot of art.