Just the beginning – The Sopris Sun

Para leer in español, presiona aquí.

By Vanessa Porras

This Friday, June 25, the “Identidad y Libertad” exhibition will end at the R2 gallery of the Launchpad. For those who were able to attend the opening of the exhibition, two of the artists, Tony Ortega and Armando Silva, were present and gave a brief introduction to their work and the meaning of it.

What would have been a panel open to the community, was done via Zoom with artists Fanel Reyes, Claudia Bernadi, Armando Silva and Tony Ortega. “Identidad y Libertad” is an exhibition created with the aim of starting conversations about immigration, multicultural identity and much more. Identity and the feeling of freedom that it implies are issues which, outside the context of immigration, are extremely complex.

During this panel, the artists expressed their own identity, some of them shared how they assimilated to both cultures, American and Latin. Silva and Ortega express how they have continued to honor their culture by using the Spanish language and challenging the status quo regarding how Latinos are viewed. Ortega remembers that as a child, his grandmother always spoke to him in Spanish and that he always answered in English. It wasn’t until the age of 19, after studying in Jalapa, Veracruz, that Ortega began speaking Spanish and discovering his ancestral roots.

On identity, Silva asked Reyes for his opinion on cultural appropriation, especially when it comes to celebrating the Day of the Dead under the pretext of learning. Reyes expresses that the Day of the Dead, especially in Oaxaca, goes beyond a celebration. It is an ancient pre-Columbian tradition created to remember and respect our ancestors. “It strikes a chord with the people of Oaxaca,” says Reyes. Regarding the appropriation, Reyes expresses the complexity of the subject, on the one hand it is an opportunity for projection but at the same time, “the intention can be blurred”, specifies Reyes. The movie “Coco” is an example used by Reyes. The Day of the Dead tradition in the film is a mixture of traditions from various states across the country.

The fight is to convert the appropriation into the projection of the culture so that those interested want to know more, provided that homage, credit and profits are returned to the place and to the people where it comes from. Bernardi speaks of appropriation as “a language that extends through a very comfortable position of postmodernism”. Bernadi remembers her time living in the Bay Area, and the difference at the time between ownership and “meeting two worlds” was the people who lived in that community. The 1960s and 1970s saw great Chicano movements and huge colonies of Latino artists who influenced culture in California. These artists, many of whom are multicultural, created art with points of reference to what was happening across the border, as well as in their own communities in the United States.

Bernadi, of Argentinian origin, managed to escape the military dictatorship in 1979. The type of personal and community work that she does and has done over the years is due to an intimate bond that she feels from her lived experiences. “My relation to the concept of freedom is knowing that you don’t have it or you don’t have it or that you can’t believe you will,” says Bernardi. These two notions of identity and freedom intertwine like a braid, each strand is a different way of interpreting this theme. One thing is certain: through art, these artists continue the conversation about what identity means and the possibility of identifying oneself either personally or collectively. The video of the full interview is available on here. We encourage you to join this conversation and visit the gallery during the last week of the show.