Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Art, Leadership, and Struggles: One Chicano Artist

Being an artist can at times be a very big challenge. Now I‘m not saying that the challenge comes from within the artist such that the artist is unable to find adequate inspiration or finds that their talent and skills are not sufficient to accomplish what they envision. Rather, several other challenges that many artists face can be discovered from a simply one-on-one conversation such as the one recently had with Chicano artist Oscar Magallanes.The issues facing artists, and in this particular instance Chicano artists, are having the right amount of exposure and support so that the work is noticed. Artists also face the challenge of creating art that can draw in the viewer and stir up thoughts that lead to meaningful and learning conversations.

When asked about his initial interest in creating art, Magallanes replied that as a child he expressed himself through drawings during his free time.  Yet, while for many children taking a piece of paper and scribbling can be insignificant, for young Magallanes every opportunity to draw meant a lot.  Growing up in a low income family, drawing on the paper at home would have been considered a waste of resources and supplies. Yet the lack of encouragement and supplies at his home did not stop him from continuing his art as he was 
continually inspired by the graffiti art and murals near his neighborhood.

Today we can see how Oscar Magallanes has made great progress from his early sketches on scrap paper. He has become a very active artist who consistently produces and exhibits artwork that is sure to strike up deep conversation about community and global issues. He calls his individual works “conversation pieces” since his art intentionally makes political statements that come from his perspective. The audience gets exposed to the current issues that are not being addressed as they should. Magallanes believes that a misinformed public contributes to the lack of this dialogging.

When Magallanes began working as an artist, many people in his community did not appreciate his art. Some felt that his bold political statements were too strong. There was the idea, amongst the Chicano community, of keeping one’s head low, but he decided to make connections with people who did not fear retribution for displaying his political images. After seeing that many people play it safe when it comes to displaying political and Chicano art, Magallanes took a friend’s advice and became a board member of a community arts organization Self-Help Graphics and also served as the Chair of the Ryman Arts Alumni Association and Alumni Representative on the Board of Directors.

He had planned to step up to leadership positions so that he could have a say in important decisions and be able to make a big impact. He continues to create many pieces so as to not only make an impact within the circles of arts leaders but also reach different communities with his artwork. Some of the biggest challenges that Chicano artists face are brought on by the communities themselves which are sometimes not willing to support the arts because they do not want to hear what has to be said. Hopefully, as time passes, more and more people will become aware of the many issues that can be addressed effectively through art and stand as community members that actively engage in conversation around issues addressed in pieces made by Chicano artist Oscar Magallanes.

 To learn more about Oscar’s current work visit his website and his new exhibit “Revolutionaries” at Pedersen Projects in Pomona. And check back soon for a report of the exhibition.


No comments:

Post a Comment