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Vision, Artistry, “White Elephants” and Creole Identity: Latino Journeys in the Americas.
All rights reserved on text. This will shortly appear in a variety of local and mainstream news outlets. "Vision, Artistry, “White Elephants” and Creole Identity: Latino Journeys in the Americas" By Eliud Martinez It’s interesting to observe how American culture proudly trumpets its Anglo-European past. Yet, some would argue it actually owes much of its extraordinary global appeal to a distinctive vibrancy and flair derived from Native-American, Afro-American and Latin American influences. Ironically, despite this rich diversity, America has often relegated its non-Anglo arts and artists to obscurity till they’d been lauded and applauded as” visionary prophets” from abroad. To be sure, there are socio-political and economic factors behind this occurrence, but this phenomenon also speaks to this country’s barely sustainable and misplaced euro-centric cultural/racial sense of itself. This mindset has prevented Americans from fully “owning” the fullness of their cultural wellspring and from examining the irony of a proverbial “white elephant hidden in its midst.” What’s that, you ask? America is a blended “criollo” (Creole) culture with a significant debt of gratitude to non-Anglo cultural influences. As we move toward increased globalization and mass migration with exploding birth rates among Latinos, America finds itself undergoing a process of “Latin-ization” previously unknown. Poetically enough, Latino cultures, in the Americas and the US, represent distinct syncretic cultural models that share parallel colonial experiences based on a similar triad of cultural influences. As a community of neglected prophets and “seers” who understand or intuit this, Latino artists find themselves coming to terms with an extraordinary shift in their sense of place and belonging. It’s no stretch of the imagination to conclude that their existential vision and artistry will presage and shape the future of Latino and mainstream American identity. Over the last thirty-plus years the New York-based arts organization, En Foco, has given acknowledgment and visibility to a number of Latino artists and artists of color in the field of fine art and documentary photography. Their New Works Photography Awards program, celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, and looks back at the accomplishments made by so many of the 45 photographers it has awarded to date. The En Foco New Works Photography Awards is a competitive annual program, selecting the most talented photographers of diverse cultures nationwide from an open call for entries . The featured 2006-07 winners in New Works #10 are Meg Escude, Diya Murthy, and Stephen Marc, alongside Honorable Mention recipients Sonya Lawyer, Emilio Banuelos, LaToya Frazier, and William Wilson. The exhibit also features a special presentation by artists that have participated over the past ten years, including Ana de Orbegoso, Terry Boddie, Annu Matthew, and Larry McNeil, to name a few. While some artists seem preoccupied with a homeland recently left behind, Meg Escude explores her bicultural (US) Latin-American identity by going abroad in search of her family’s cultural homeland. Partly inspired by a desire to seek out her Argentine heritage, and out of a sense of profound disillusionment with American politics and consumerist culture, she goes on a journey of self-discovery. In it she finds camaraderie and friendship in a most unexpected cultural microcosm: a Latin American circus. Escude’s images explore the lives within Circus Orlando Orfei, one of the oldest and most traditional of the Circuses still traveling throughout Latin America. Her photos not only reveal the intimate portraits of its nearly 100 workers, it does so in the context of a fascinating pan American landscape. On the other hand, Ana de Orbegoso’s photo series titled “Invisible Walls,” raises questions of privacy, boundaries and the sense of safety these may provide. Following her exposure as En Foco's New Works Photography Awards winner for 2002 for this work, she became affiliated with the Latin Collector Gallery. Most recently she was awarded the “Primer Premio De Fotografia Peruana” for her new work. A portion of this work will be seen at the NYC exhibit. According to de Orbegoso, her earlier images (“Invisible Walls”), represents a visual confrontation with the barriers that are inseparable from the essence of human experience. These barriers can be seen to serve many purposes, including resisting the invasive effects of " cultural imperialism" ("Americanization or Europeanization") and the banalities of consumerist culture. Such “containment” offers both a sense of boundary as well as a sense of cultural nexus and contiguity. Although this work was produced in Peru, it may possibly be suggestive of a provocative and controversial socio-political idea Americans “love to hate”. In its own way, it could symbolize limits to the ideas of classic “cultur
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