Angelica Gomez, Evening Task
Fresh-faced Latina artists join forces against pop culture

Centro Cultúral Aztlán's Galeria Expresión presents a strong variety of what Latin pop culture has been shoving in our face for years: cleavage.

Between the mixed media of oil, paint, pastels, and photography, the young Latina artists showcased in the group exhibit, "Latinas: El Nuevo Movimiento," are focused on saying "I am what I am, and not what the media says I should be."

Artist Celeste De Luna's Fajas Deluxe is an image of two female backsides squeezed into an "as seen on TV" product that screams "Levantan Los Glutos Y Aplanan Le Barriga" (lift your butt and flatten your belly). It's the miracle girdle for Mexican women ashamed of their cultural curves. De Luna's mission is to paint how society has labeled the Latina body as a commodity to be viewed, bought, and sold for the right-sized diamond. Thanks J. Lo.

9am-5pm Monday-Friday
Through August 1
Centro Cultúral Aztlán
Galeria Expresión
803 Castroville Rd. Ste. 402
Maybe De Luna has a point: Latinas are just a commodity. Or maybe we should look to artist Ruth Buentello's piece Madre, which features the gorgeous blue face of a woman glowing in pink pastel highlights. Her natural beauty - from soft facial features to traditional braided hair - radiates from the simplicity of the portrait. Buentello's other piece, Crusader, is a portrayal of a Latina peering at a prison wall, awaiting the right moment to flee. The orange light from a lamp post brightens her wide eyes and shows the crinkles on her forehead - the determination and fearlessness on her face shows the desperation many Latina women face in reaching a better place in life. The uniquely simple, yet strong messages of Buentello's work makes you wonder if today's Latinas are tough enough - or even willing - to continue the neverending battle against the machismo media world.

Ruth Buentello, Madre
Angelica Gomez' work demonstrates an appreciation of Latina beauty without the copout of hating the media's latest cover girl. Evening Task shows a woman overwhelmed with putting on rollers. The excessive use of curls and swirls in the painting conveys the tediousness of the daily tasks that are everyday beauty to some women. Although her work appears light and colorful, Gomez still shows the reality of all women being beautiful - hair coiffed or not.

The Latinas in Centro Cultúral Aztlán's exhibit use their intelligence and artistic ability to get their own message across: Latinas are just like all women. They want to be seen, heard, and respected for all of what they are, not just their cleavage.

Artist Gabriela Ortegon' wins the "artista feminista award." Her words alongside her painting of a woman cutting off her nipple and staring at it with a pair of scissors in her hand says it all: "It's not important to me if I cut off my breast, I still have my brain. Physical appearance is not as important as mental ability." •

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