Artist Interviews from Bibliotecha Exhibition

All photos by  Cynthia Edith Zubia

All photos by Cynthia Edith Zubia

By Cynthia Edith Zubia

Safe spaces seem to be continuously threatened due to our current political climate. This is why group exhibitions like Bibliotecha are so important. Art can create safe spaces by allowing people to use their imagination and freely express themselves.

Bibliotecha is a show comprised of work by a group of Latinx artists that opened on Thursday, March 9th, 2017 at ATM Gallery/Studio in Austin, TX. Initially, Bibliotecha started as a multi-genre party meant to create community, and then expanded to include the visual arts. The artists of Bibliotecha state in the show’s promotional materials:

The exhibition promotes and recognizes the importance of visibility for Latinx artists represented across race, class and nonbinary gender.

The work in the exhibition came from a variety of practices, and the curators encouraged people to engage in new conversations in a safe and open space. The project is supported in part by the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department and features over 30 local, national, and international artists.

Recently, we got to meet and interview five of the featured artists.

2017a005bi-1490212565-76.jpg

Javier Aguilar

Rainey, 2017

Tell us about yourself.

I’m a photographer based in Austin, Texas. I graduated from St. Edward’s University in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in Photo-Communications and a minor in Computer Science. I primarily focus on portraiture, candid, and nightlife photography. I have no preference in photographic medium as I work with film, digital, and instant. 

What is your work about? 
This work revolves around the concepts of infrastructures and constructed realities. I use my photographs as way of exploring the abstractions of constructed realities, and the role of transparency and identity as filtered through various technological applications. By manipulating and pushing my photographs, I attempt to see how far factualness within a photograph can go without losing its integrity. 

How do you identify culturally and how does it influence your art? 
As far as my identity goes, I identify as a gay Latino. Being a minority, I have always gravitated towards other minorities and subcultures. Due to this gravitation, I have become fascinated with capturing the stories of individuals who don’t often get their story shared, particularly those in the LGBTQPOC community. History tends to overlook minority communities so I believe it’s important to archive and capture my community, which is essentially my family.

www.javier-aguilar.com

2017a005bi-1490274568-2.jpg

Natalia Rocafuerte

#friends4pic

:^)

What is your work about?

#Friends4Pic was a virtual performance that incorporated social media, iOS photography, and post-modern identities. For a month I posted photos with different strangers posing as my friends with the hashtag #friends4pic. Uninformed friends and family watched in LIVE time on Facebook and Instagram an “unreal” social performance on my personal social media accounts. My mentality was mostly satirical/comical and involved ideas from Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle. If people get their news from Facebook every day, my daily image was meant to be the comic strip to your newsfeed that holds a mirror. I’m “friends” with Steam Punks and Cowboys, played in a post-punk-Austin “band”, and just one of the bros at Sigma Alpha Epsilon at Texas State. Anyway, I made a 15 minute video installation (one video in collaboration with Joe Krupa!) with looping images and sales slogans that is displayed on stacked TV’s (a kind of VIDEO comic book).

How do you identify culturally and how does it influence your art?

Well I suppose it was easy for me to explore things because I’m an immigrant. Things like renouncing the right to vote, applying for citizenship and visas, and dealing with all that bureaucracy and paperwork really distanced me from an idea of a “nationality.” For the longest time, I only identified with my birth land (Puebla, Mexico), but starting my citizenship paperwork has really made me start to wonder if I’m becoming more of an American, whatever that may mean.

One thing people should know about your work:

I also posed with my “real life” friends because I also can’t escape the performance aspect of social media, but it’s interesting to question the masks we chose to hide behind every now and then.

P.S.

Oh yeah! The video installation includes a Live Stream video I did in San Antonio, where I went to a random family and asked them to pose in front of the Alamo with me. The performance is time lapsed on my Instagram @cowboyglove.

www.nataliarocafuerte.com

Hanlly Sam

Florencia

Trinidad

Tell us about yourself.

I was born and raised in Mexico City, and have lived in Austin since 2008. I got my BA at St. Edward’s University and found a great job as a designer for Birds Barbershop. I have always been a very active person whether it’s running, swimming, or biking. I recently ventured into the world of mixed martial arts so I have been doing kick boxing, muay thai, and some jiu jitsu; it is definitely something I recommend trying at least once.

I love checking out thrift stores. There’s something about finding retro clothing and realizing you are taking a peek into the past. I dig finding interesting patterns and materials that aren’t used nowadays.

I enjoy spending time on my own because I do a lot of thinking and wondering about life in general. Traveling by myself is probably one of my favorite things to do. I have been lucky to visit different places in the world, and experiencing new cultures as an outsider can be very eye opening and inspiring.

2017a005bi-1490275040-1.jpg

What is your work about?

I like to create things out of thoughts and experiences. I get inspired by people and their stories, ideas, or struggles. These two pieces, for example, came to be after a conversation with an American filmmaker who is working on a documentary about Santeria in Mexico. After meeting him I went online and researched it until I came across interesting looking urns. It never occurred to me that someone out there is making urns that look like art pieces so I created this artwork based on urns.

How do you identify culturally and how does it influence your art?

I grew up with a negative connotation of my own country. In my head, Mexico has always been a struggling country that will not get better because of corruption and greedy leaders. This pessimism is bad but it also creates this drive in you to make things better for yourself. I think this is reflected in my art because these intense feelings and constant striving are still engraved in me but don’t necessarily apply to my life here in America. Making art for me is a way to utilize this energy and put it out there in a positive way.

www.Hanllysam.com

2017a005bi-1490281095-10.jpg

Rolando Sepulveda II

Made in Mecksi.Co, 2017

Sentimientos de Sandía, 2016

Tell us about yourself.

I am an artist working with photography. From San Antonio, Texas, I am currently residing in Austin. I work as a creative designer for a non-profit while supporting my art independently. 
The pieces I chose for this show were specific to the unifying theme of Latinx art. In general, my work reflects my queer identity and utilizes in-frame constructions to deconstruct the patriarchal foundation on which the straight photographic process was built upon.

What is your work about?

These two pieces refer to memories I have from my younger life. The watermelon portrait comes from a memory I have of poking holes in my grandma’s watermelon. It was the only time she was ever truly disappointed in something I had done. I thought it would be funny and cute to make faces in yellow watermelon halves to represent emoticon emotions. The portrait of the boy wearing the “Hecho en Mexico” shirt is inspired by a boy from my high school who had the same shirt. He was not hecho en Mexico.

2017a005bi-1490276112-71.jpg

How do you identify culturally and how does it influence your art?

I identify as a Latino boy from Texas…maybe Tejano, though I am not sure if that label is correct for me. I have struggled with how to represent my Latinx identity since I can remember. As a kid, I was a little embarrassed of where I came from and took advantage of the fact that I had lighter skin to differentiate myself. Obviously, I was also juggling my repressed queerness and it was interesting to see how race played a role in that. At the time, I had found comfort in white narratives because it seemed to be at odds with the Machismo environment created by the men in my family who unknowingly made me feel bad for not being more in tune with my Latino masculinity. I was not proud to come from this and in some twisted way of thinking found more acceptance in a more white/Eurocentric space. I wanted to be English so badly.

Anyway, fast forward all these years and I am more comfortable as a queer boy than I have ever been, but still get a little stuck navigating my Latinx self. I am third generation North American (if it’s even worth counting to that point), I don’t speak Spanish fluently, and I am living in Austin. Yet my family all speaks Spanish, knows what cities and places in Mexico we come from, and even attends Mass in Spanish. I don’t want to be THAT Hispanic who talks about how hard it is to be too North American to be Mexican, but too many times have I felt stuck in this situation, even at the opening night of this exhibition, where I was still struggling to fit in with other people who simply had greater and more direct stories to tell. The “Made in Mecksi.Co” piece reflects these ideas. It’s referencing someone I went to grade school with who wore the shirt for fun, I guess because they were white/not from Mexico, but how I myself feel a disconnect with this concept. The white plexiglass cut into a staircase design is supposed to create this quality in the image that makes it look like it’s loading, digitally, but also creates a physical wall within the frame. The model looks a little devious to create some awareness that something is off or maybe unfair.

If people should know anything about my work, it’s that I agonize over everything a lot. I care a lot about the work I make and get far into my head when I am conceptualizing. It’s what I wish I could be doing full time and it’s always a pleasure to share the work that I am able to make here and there. I am super grateful and continuously shocked when anybody gives their own undivided time to whatever I am working on. Thank you.

www.rolandosepulveda.com 

2017a005bi-1490276392-54.jpg

Daniel Alejandro Trejo

That Look in Your Eye (Blue)

I’m Standing in Your Light (Yellow)

Tell us about yourself.

I’m an emerging visual artist focusing on ceramic sculpture based out from Stockton, California. I received by BA in Art Studio and Art History from the University of California at Davis. Afterwards, I found studio residency in Sacramento at a former pottery factory. Thereafter, I was offered studio residency at Verge Center for the Arts in Sacramento, where I currently maintain my studio practice, and also oversee and teach ceramics classes as the educational associate. It’s such a privilege being able to continue to work with such a valuable material, and in a very supportive environment.

What is your work about?

In my work, I’m trying to exploit the capabilities of clay to heighten sensations of anxiety and overwhelming thought. The sculptures are derived from spontaneity into almost recognizable forms to heighten the viewer’s sense of self and the way they interact cautiously with my pieces in their respective environments. Repetition, color, and spatial coordination are employed to reveal the creation of difficulties when lines and splotches are represented in a sculptural form. I’m really excited to see where my investigations are taking me.

2017a005bi-1490277004-40.jpg

How do you identify culturally and how does it influence your art?

I’m a Latino artist, born and raised in the United States. Both of my parents are from la Ciudad de México.

Although my work is conceptual and minimalistic, the colors are anything but monochromatic. Many ceramic works have beautiful glazes rich in iron, copper, or cobalt oxides to the point where we are oversaturated with works that are brown, black, white, beige, with dark hues of greens or blues. Color has become very important to me in my work.

My pieces go through so much glaze/color editing. One color may not look good on one piece, but it may look amazing on another. I think the most I’ve ever redone the color on a piece is about 5-6 times (trying to find a perfect green was a pain!)

Some of my influences are the vibrant colors seen in the visual culture of Mexico. However, I do try to reduce the intensity of color seen in arte popular, to avoid it being perceived as kitschy. It’s very interesting working in parameters set by white art critics, galleries, and other institutions of art where everyone is mostly white, but it’s very important for me to be in those spaces as well. I like to think of it as crashing a party - you weren’t invited, but at the end of the night everyone enjoyed your presence there and hopefully, for the next one they’ll invite you...and a plus one.

As contemporary artists of color, we have such a responsibility to represent those who lack the resources to do what we are doing.  Although my work isn’t immediately thought as having political or social connotations due to my aesthetic, my existence in the white so-called art world, is a political/social statement.

The exhibit can be viewed at the ATM Gallery/Studio 5305 Bolm Rd Bay 12 ATX, 78702. Open hours are Saturday’s 12-5 p.m. or by appointment (email bolmatm@gmail.com).The exhibit runs until the end of March, there will be a closing on March 31, 2017 from 7–10 p.m.