Local Exhibit Explores Chicanx and Latinx Futurism to Portray Greater Messages of Life and Identity
“Mars Needs More Women: Project: MASA-V” is the fifth installation in a multi-year collaborative exhibition as part of a larger series. Project: MASA, which brings together artists from Chicanx using science fiction and spatial iconography, drawing on the past, present and future to comment on social issues. The project was created by artist and art educator Luis Valderasin in the early 2000s.
“I’ve been working on this for almost 20 years now…organizing this required extremely open lines of communication with ALL participants in order to bring this vision to fruition,” Valderas remarked.
“Mars Needs More Women” explores the sci-fi genre through the lens of Chicanx and latinx perspectives. Although science fiction is an immensely popular genre, there is hardly any legitimate Latin representation in its stories. Therefore, “Mars Needs More Women” strives to explore “Chicanx/Latinx futurism”.
“[email protected] Futurism is our gente (people) way of decolonizing and gaining agency by recreating our own realities through the use of tropes that connect time and speculative realities,” Valderas explained.
The exhibition is located in the historic Centro Cultural Aztlan; it was established in 1977 by a group of young Chicanx activists with the goal of spreading their message of pride and empowerment to the San Antonio community. Even after its retirement from use by political activists, the Centro Cultural Aztlan has continuously served as a platform to promote and elevate Chicanx and indigenous culture. Through exhibitions such as “Mars Needs More Women”, they work to support artistic creativity, especially among local and emerging artists. The exhibition curated by Cathryn Merla-Watson, Ph.D. and Iliana Pompa features the work of 19 different Chicanx and Latinx artists from San Antonio and the greater South Texas area. Artists whose works have been exhibited include: Catherine Cisneros, Celeste De Luna, Yareth Fernandez, Brandy González, Suzy Gonzalez, Nansi Guevara, Mari Hernandez, Terry Ybañez, Lizette Ortiz, Pocha Peña, Sam Rawls, Natalia Rocafuerte, Mary Agnes Rodriguez , Ana Lilia Salinas, Liliana Wilson, Cindy Valderas and Guillermina Zabala.
The exhibition is made up of many types of artworks, including paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, and mixed media works.
Guillermina Zabala is an Argentinian interdisciplinary artist who works primarily with photography, film, prints and other forms of mixed media. His series of prints titled “Lukutuwe I-III” is Zabala’s way of returning to his roots. The symbolism in his piece stems from those created by the Mapuche people, an indigenous group that resides in different parts of South America, primarily Chile and parts of Argentina. Using Mapuche imagery, she wished to reconnect with her Argentinian roots and explore ideas of gender fluidity while learning about Mapuche culture.
“Lukutuwe is an image that represents a person; it doesn’t have to be female or male, so it’s kind of a gender neutral person. [The symbol portrays a person] looking up to the sky in a kneeling position. And for the Mapuche tribe, he is really an important character. They use it extensively in a variety of different rituals and their own textile work. And so I read more about it and felt that the word was related to the idea behind Lukutuwe. One because, you know, I wanted to do something that represents this approach to gender fluidity and something where it’s like [includes] the type of indigenous cosmovision and the idea of how indigenous tribes see our universe,” Zabala explained.
Among the featured artists is a popular local artist Brandy Gonzalezwhose work has been presented many times at San
Antonio, including in the reopening of the Centro De Artes Gallery. The exhibition “Mars Needs More Women” presents two of her pieces entitled “They Did Not Know We Were Seeds” and “We’ve Been Here”. The pieces coincide to portray a greater statement of renaissance, culture and gender expression. “They didn’t know we were seeds” plays on the Mexican proverb, “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds. Made with hojas (tamale leaves) and paint, this piece plays with its counterpart “We’ve Been Here”, which explores how the knowledge of our ancestors is reborn and projected across space-time to continue to expand across distant lands. stronger messages of resilience and strength presented by people of Chicanx/Latinx background.
“What if our ancestors redeemed us with ancestral knowledge that was whitewashed or taken away from us? And it came back once they gave us the energy that we are able to spread through the cosmos as represented through this space-time vacuum. And then we are able to give birth again, growing up in some of the toughest conditions we have here. So you can see some of the little babies or the little center there… Day of the Dead kind of represents our ancestors coming back, growing in the plants that are so intricate and detailed. González’s remarks.
“Mars Needs More Women” highlights the importance of representation and perseverance of Chicanx and Latinx culture in an ever-changing society. Through the artists’ use of science fiction iconography, stories and culture are declared through multi-media artworks and how they intersect with our past, present and future roots. “Mars Needs More Women” and the Centro Cultural Aztlan are partly funded by the city, but they receive far less marketing and publicity than other exhibits in San Antonio. Today more than ever, the need to support these emerging and local artists is felt. Promoting local artists is a necessary step in keeping art and culture alive in San Antonio. “Mars Needs More Women: The MASA-V Project” is currently on display at the Centro Cultural Aztlan in the Deco district of San Antonio. It is completely free to the public and is on display Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. until June 10, 2022. For more information on the exhibition, Click here or visit Centro Cultural Aztlan website.