Exhibit: Emerging From Aztlán

Starting on October 8th, 2005, I will be exhibiting work at, Emerging From Aztlán, the third annual Chicano art show to be held at the da Center for the Arts in Pomona California. This awe-inspiring exhibit showcases some of the very best Chicano artists from around Southern California and beyond, and offers an exciting amalgam of styles, concepts, and directions. It’s also an amazing opportunity to see the artworks of well established professionals alongside those of up and coming talents. This show is a blockbuster on many levels, and if you think you know what El Arte Chicano is all about - be prepared to have all of your preconceptions sacrificed to Aztec gods. I wrote the following artist’s statement concerning the exhibition:

“From my point of view, Emerging From Aztlán is more than the title of a Chicano art show hosted by the dA Center for the Arts in Pomona. It is a phrase that recognizes, celebrates and authenticates Mexican American art and aesthetics. It is also a proclamation that Chicano artists are expanding well beyond the imaginary boundaries that surround them, to influence the international artistic community. In presenting my artwork at Emerging From Aztlán, I hoped to engage people in an important and long overdue dialog that might begin with the following points - What is Chicano art; How are its aesthetics distinct; Where is it going?

I have submitted to the exhibition a life-sized chalk pastel drawing on paper depicting an anonymous Chicana. She holds an image of the Aztec moon goddess, Coyolxauhqui (or, She Who Wears Bells on Her Cheeks, which is also the title of the artwork.) The goddess was so important to the Aztecs that they placed an enormous stone sculpture of her at the base of their most prominent temple pyramid. The ancient emblem of the goddess has become a ubiquitous cultural icon for contemporary Chicanos and Mexicanos, and so an appropriate image for me to draw. While my artwork addresses the issue of modern cultural identity - it also focuses on the significance of historic memory - interlocking concepts that instill Chicano art with special meaning.

Detail of chalk pastel drawing by Mark Vallen
[ Detail of "She Who Wears Bells on Her Cheeks" - Chalk drawing by Vallen.
Click here for a larger view. ]

I view Chicano art as being intrinsically combative in nature. Not in an overt political respect per se; although political militancy was definitely part of early artistic output, but confrontational in the sense that it represents a refusal to the dominant culture of the United States. In that regard, Chicano art has always been a form of resistance. Its role in helping to define a people and community; of furthering the struggle for full civil and human rights; of popularizing myths, traditions and experiences - is far from being over.

Today we face new and daunting challenges, and once again history invites artists to play the part of shamans, prophets and organizers. But while looking towards the future we must never abandon the past, for it is a source of great strength and wisdom. The Aztecs spoke of Aztlán (”The place of the White Heron”), as their mythical point of origin. Once beginning the exodus from their fabled homeland - believed by more than a few to have been located somewhere in the Southwestern area of what is now the United States - the Aztec people wandered for some two hundred years before settling in the valley of Mexico. At this moment in the 21st Century there is a dire need for an innovative and contentious Chicano Art movement, and as we continue on our modern day quest for empowerment, enhanced self-esteem and social justice - we shall find it as we come Emerging From Aztlán.”

Emerging From Aztlán runs from October 8th, 2005 to November 20th, 2005. Patrons are invited to a special sneak preview Artist’s Reception on Saturday October 8th, from 4:00 to 6:00 pm, where serious collectors can meet the artists and have the first opportunity to acquire artworks. Music and refreshments are also part of the event. Tickets are available for $20 each (Phone: 909-397-9716.) The general public is invited to two free Artist’s Receptions - Saturday October 8th and Saturday November 12th, 2005 - both held from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. The da Center for the Arts is located at: 252-D South Main Street, Pomona California 91766-1630. For more information, visit their website, at: www.dacenter.org

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