'Queer Califas' Expresses Origin, Identity, and Sexuality in Art
By Christopher Harrity
Rick Castro, "Dia De La Comunidad/Gay Muerta 2," 2009. Read about the exhibit below.
There is a thread that connects Latinx people. It is a strong, soulful link, which is unbreakable. Many are newcomers to this country cutting new paths. Some from centuries-long histories from both colonizer and the colonized — with Spanish and Portuguese surnames cloaking indigenous and African heritage.
“Latino(a)” as a category encompasses many cultures, identities, origins, and histories with many subsets, in this case a queer Latinx perspective. Spanish and Portuguese are gendered languages, which means that every noun has a gender. Some members of Latin American communities claim this gendered language reinforces patriarchal and heterosexist norms.
The 20-plus (multigenerational) artists included in this exhibition, “Queer Califas,” express their artistry in real time — some with a fixed lens to the past and others with sights set to the future.
These artists hail from diverse communities across the United States and beyond, calling California home. The artists list includes: Laura Aguilar, Marcel Alcala, Maritza Amezcua, Enrique Castrejon, Rick Castro, Ben Cuevas, Gregorio Davila, Diego Eduardo, Cleonette Harris, Carolina Hicks a.k.a. SBTL CLNG, Rigo Maldonado, Roy Martinez a.k.a. Lambe Culo, Miguel Angel Reyes, Angelo Alessandro Rodarte, Manuel Rodrigues aka Sad Boy, Daniel “Chino” Rodriguez, Joey Terrill, Rommy Torrico, performance by El Sancha y Las Sirenas, and more.
Maritza Amezcua, "A Toda Madre o Un Desmadre", 2015
Maritza Amezcua, "The Homegirl Rosie", 2015
Laura Aguilar, "Penny and Lydia #1", c. 1990s, Gelatin Silver print, 5 x 7 inches each.
Laura Aguilar offers candid portrayals of herself, her friends and family, and Queer Latinx communities. Using her nude body as an overt and courageous rebellion against the colonization of Latinx identities — racial, gendered, cultural and sexual. Her practice intuitively evolved over time as she struggled to negotiate and navigate her ethnicity and sexuality, her challenges with depression and auditory dyslexia, and the acceptance of her large body. Her photographs and videos are frequently political as well as personal, and traverse performative, feminist, and queer art genres.
Laura Aguilar, "Penny and Lydia #2", c. 1990s, Gelatin Silver print, 5 x 7 in. each
Laura Aguilar, "Holly Hughes, 1993", Gelatin Silver print, 4 x6 in. each
Enrique Castrejon, "Calculated Degrees of Depresssion", 2017
Enrique Castrejon, "A Falling Dreams", 2017
Rick Castro, "Asiento Del Esquinero, Numero 1", 2015
Rick Castro is a photographer known for his work focusing on fetish and desire. Castro’s sex positive imagery is darkly erotic, elegant, and at times, sinister. A powerful and imaginative figure that emerged in the Los Angeles underground during the late ’80s, Rick Castro was dubbed The Fetish King. His photographs are characterized by potent and visceral tableaux tinged with sadomasochism, leather and sexual pleasure. Rick Castro’s films are archived by UCLA Legacy Projects and his books and photographs are archived by the Alfred Kinsey Institute and the Tom of Finland Foundation.
Rick Castro, "Asiento Del Esquinero, Numero 2", 2015
Rick Castro, "Asiento Del Esquinero, Numero 3", 2015
Rick Castro, "Dia De La Comunidad/Gay Muerta 3", 2009
Ben Cuevas, "NOT MASC FOR MASC BUT YAS F0R YAS", 2017
Bens Cuevas‘ work is directly influenced by his HIV Positive status and queer, male-body. “I want to challenge viewers’ fears of HIV and help revive the queer culture lost to AIDS and gentrification,” Ben states. Exploration of identity, pop, and the Internet carries through into his most recent work, The Tweetables Series: Knit Text in 140 Characters or Less, merging the contemporary language and aesthetics of social media with the anachronistic softness of knitting and yarn, Ben adds, “Throughout its pluralities, I see my work as reflecting the condition of embodiment: exploring the intersections of the mind and body, what it means to have a body, to inhabit a body, to be a body incarnated in, and interacting with this world.”
Ben Cuevas, "NO FATS NO FEMMES? NO THANK YOU", 2017
Carolina Hicks creates as a means of coping with reality. She makes what she can from whatever items, moments, and spaces she collides against. Carolina is interested in decolonization of the self, acknowledging and healing from the different textures/scales of violence, and finding strength in vulnerability. Through her work, she aims to reshape her personal reality through emotional alchemy, or what she calls Pain Magic. Her form of resisting the terror of the white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy is by publicly mourning.
Roy Martinez, aka Lambe Culo, "Sequin", 2016, and "Feeling Brown Feeling Down", 2016
Roy Martinez, aka Lambe Culo, "Zarape Harnes", 2017
Roy Martinez, aka Lambe Culo, "Libra", 2016 and "Purple Haze", 2016
Miguel Angel Reyes, "Alexander", 2017
Miguel Angel Reyes, "Silverlake", 2017
Miguel Angel Reyes, "Jeff (Havenhurst WeHo)", 2000
Miguel Angel Reyes, "Ruben & Paco (Havenhurst WeHo)", 2002
Angelo Alessandro Rodarte, Sin titulo (6), 2016
Angelo Alessandro Rodarte, Sin titulo (7), 2016
Manuel Rodrigues, aka Sad Boy, Angelo Alessandro Rodarte, 2017
Manuel Rodrigues, aka Sad Boy, Lambe Culo en Hotel Isabel, 2017
Manuel Rodrigues, aka Sad Boy, "San Cha Pool NoHo", 2017
Manuel Rodrigues, aka Sad Boy, "LA Metro", 2017
Daniel “Chino” Rodriguez, "Mictlantecuthli", 2017
Daniel “Chino” Rodriguez, "Rush", 2017
Daniel “Chino” Rodriguez, "Bound", 2017
Daniel “Chino” Rodriguez, "Xoxhipilli", 2017
Joey Terrill, "Sustiva Still-Life", 1999
Joey Terrill is a Los Angeles-based queer Chicano artist with over five decades of producing work including paintings, drawings and publications. Rooted in a commitment to social justice issues, Terrill’s work contests categories of Chicano and queer art and identity, consistently blurring the line between art, life, and activism.
Joey Terrill, "Black Jack 8", 2008
Rommy Torrico, "Dismantle Ice", 2016
Rommy Torrico is an undocumented, brown, queer, non-binary migrant born in Iquique, Chile. They head a graphics company specializing in designs for print and web. The company is firmly rooted in the ideals of social justice. Creating work that is bold, concise and to the point, eliciting a visceral response. Rommy has been involved in the (im)migrant rights struggle for several years and infuse much of their work with the stories their community shares and their own experiences connected to identity, status, love, sadness, and home. Rommy is part of a grassroots initiative, the Collier County Neighborhood Stories Project, which believes in the strength of our communities.