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We all know the grim statistics. Hispanics are less likely to graduate high school than other ethnic groups, and Latinas, in particular, still have higher rates of teen pregnancy and fewer college degrees than other young girls do.

So what can be done about this appalling situation? Well, perhaps something as simple as giving Hispanic girls a camera is a start.

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A Latino Walks into a Gallery…

One of my original goals for this blog was to serve as a conduit to Hispanic artists, writers, and general mover-shaker types who might otherwise be overlooked. So far, alas, I have been largely remiss in addressing this goal.

That’s why I’m pleased to have discovered the art of Gabriela Gonzalez Delloso. Her paintings were prominently displayed in a gallery that I wandered into, and they immediately caught my attention. Although her work is not explicitly about being Hispanic, her images (to my untrained eye, at least) carry the weight of the Latino experience.

A bride gazes longingly at a pair of red shoes, and I think of my cousins’ quinceneras. An abuela-type figure presides over a table of food, and I remember random feasts that brought my family together.

Of course, none of this would work if the images were wrapped in sentimentality or cliché. But the artist avoids such traps. In addition, she sets her pieces in the smoky realm of the old masters, as if Rembrandt were Latino. Her work is unlike anything I’ve seen, and I encourage you to check it out.


One Crazy Mexican

Recently, I was introduced to the art of Martin Ramirez. His strange and twisted life story can be summarized as follows:

A young Mexican man comes to the United States in 1925 to find work. Years later, the Great Depression hits, he winds up on the street, and he gets picked up the cops. He is thrown into a nuthouse in California, where he lives for the rest of his life. Over the course of his 32 years in a mental institution, he creates some of the most stunning artwork of the era. With no formal training, and often, without any art supplies beyond stray objects that he found in the building, he creates mesmerizing images that address immigration, poverty, and insanity. He has public exhibitions of his work, and critics hail him as brilliant. Yet his schizophrenia is so severe that he rarely speaks to anyone, and he never comprehends that his pictures have provoked such adoration in the outside world. He dies, still insane as fuck, in 1963 at the age of 68.

If he had been a crazy Brit or a mad German, would his treatment in America have been the same? Might his genius be better recognized and nurtured today, rather than shut off in a padded cell? And what of our social services that took care of an immigrant instead of chucking him back across the border? How would that work in the current political climate?

These are all valid questions, but all I can offer in this post is a gateway to his art. Looking at his work makes you feel like you’re taking a warped train ride (one of his favorite reoccurring motifs) through a tortured imagination, destination unknown or even irrelevant. If you get a chance, check out a Ramirez exhibition, and let the Fanatic know what you think of it.


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