La Lotería: An Exploration of México


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Sioux City, Art Center, Sioux City, IA usa

Artist Statement

This Installation is large in scale –approximately 10’x 27’ (3meters x 8 meters) ) and consists of 54 small individual oil paintings on wood panels, each measuring 14.24”x 9.5” x 2” (36cm x 24cm x 5cm) . I am excited by both the large scale of the whole installation, and the detailed paintings that draw the viewer in with color, language and humor which celebrates the culture of Mexico. I based the format of this installation on the popular Mexican game of chance called “La Lotería”. There are 54 cards in a Lotería deck. Each card shows an image with a word describing that image in Spanish -hence the total number of 54 small paintings in this installation. I wanted to paint images, impressions, and ideologies that would tell of my experiences of the Mexican culture in a fun and objective way. Though I have been traveling, and living in Mexico off and on for over 20 years, this installation was conceived while I was living in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mx. in 1995. I spent 1 year in research on the historical and social importance of this game, and 1 year in production. Many images within this installation depict icons of humor, irony, and faith found throughout Mexico which are concepts that are often employed to deal with the harsh realities of life. These concepts allow many people living in Mexico to maintain sanity in a context, that at times, seem controlled by the irrational. I find this way of thinking very inspirational and infectious and hope the viewers of this installation will come to understand and appreciate this approach as well. Although this installation is only a small attempt to express the unique culture of Mexico, may passion serve as apology for imperfection. – Teresa Villegas

La Lotería: An Exploration of México

Every culture has its idioms and icons -certain words and images that transcend the literal and reside in the psyches of the people. This installation entitled “La Lotería: An Exploration of México” explores some of the ubiquitous images of Mexico by using the format of La Lotería, a popular Mexican game of chance. This artwork has drawn upon Mexican traditions, historical figures, gastronomy, and popular culture, translating them into images familiar and recognizable to those who have experienced this distinctive culture. The purpose of this installation is to inspire interest, understanding, and dialog between the people of the United States and Mexico.

The images depicted in this installation run the gamut from the mundane to the obscure. Anyone who has crossed the border, ventured into the central highlands, or spent time on the beaches of Mexico will find some or most of these images familiar. Each image was created independently without reference to the others. Despite this, certain themes may be discerned within the installation. Food, for example, often has strong ties to the national identity. When consumed, it often evokes memories of childhood and family. The food depicted within this installation is found throughout Mexico -including churros, nopales, horchata, pozole, and others.

On the surface, Mexico may appear to be a homogeneous society in regards to its Catholic beliefs. However, faith is practiced in a wide spectrum. This ranges from the traditional objects of devotion -candles, ex-votos, milagros , and hand carved saints –to images of the pope depicted as a Day of the Dead sugar skull, magical powders, and the ever-present diablito who provides temptation in all forms.

The male figures in this installation embody many of the traits most admired in Mexican culture. We see the machismo of the street-corner fire breather and the professional wrestler “El Luchador”. We see the quiet dignity of the unassuming humanitarian physician Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez “El Doctor”, so widely revered throughout Latin America. Ironically, perhaps the two most recognized men within this series are masked. Since pre-Columbian times, Mexico has been enamored with the mask. It serves as both a shield and a hiding place. The famous good-guy luchador El Santo and the popular spokesperson for the Zapatista movement, Subcommandante Marcos “El Revolucionario” each represent a masked champion whose silent face embodies the face of millions.

The female figures of this series also represent strong individuals whose actions have had an impact on many, even if their voices were heard by only a few. Number 12 refers to the pious nuns whose portraits were painted upon entering the 17th century convents “La Corona”, and number 51 “La Muñeca” to the prostitutes who would indicate their availability via their surrogate dolls. We see the revolutionary Doña Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez “La Corregidora” whose whispers helped free Mexico from Spain, and the Virgin of Guadalupe who spoke only to Juan Diego and became the crucial link between European Catholic and indigenous spirituality. No other woman’s image is as widespread as this Virgin’s, whose depictions run from the divine to the sublime, from high art to kitsch “La Virgen Fosforescente”.

Mexico offers a broad spectrum of popular and high culture, from the fashionable modern soap opera “La Telenovela” and the graphic novels of the historietas to the famed poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz “La Poetisa”. How poignant to realize that Sor Juana’s works were deemed scandalous and she was ostracized in her own lifetime, yet her face now graces the Mexican currency used to purchase the necessities of life -a perfect example of how sometimes irony and humor are often unintentionally juxtaposed in a culture. This installation embodies only a portion of the diversity of Mexico, and its aim is to give viewers from other cultures a sense of the richness of Mexican culture. Viewers will also see that the people of Mexico share many of the same motives and beliefs as any other people -including desire “Desear”, liberty “La Libertad”, and a sense of destiny “Destino”.

View all 54 paintings

If you would like to exhibit this installation, download PDF requirements here: LTE Requirements

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