Arts Magazine: Frontera Lake Street

From Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program

Wrestling with Issues: Six Latino artists, assuming the personae of pop wrestlers, show their art in a group exhibition

"Frontera Lake Street" is a new exhibition by six visual artists: Salvador Espejo Benitez, Luis Fitch, Alexa Horochowski, Douglas Padilla, Marcela Rodriguez A., and Xavier Tavera. They all navigate the personal, cultural, and aesthetic borders of Latino experience.

The exhibition is presented through the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program (MAEP), by Grupo Soap del Corazon, a group of artists and cultural activists devoted to the promotion of "border" culture in Minnesota. The group's name is "spanglish" for "soap of the heart." While many peoples live and work along the Lake Street corridor, Grupo Soap presents a series of exhibitions and projects seeking to acknowledge the Latino community in and around Lake Street, with its mercados, taquerias, tortillerias, and Latino businesses.

Named for the frontera, or "border," this exhibition reveals the cultural border's varied manifestations, creative and otherwise. It refers to the divisions, meeting points, and clashes of culture; the mixed blessings of double identity; the physical struggle and spiritual ascendance of cultural transformation; and the poetic possibilities of cultural dualism.

The artwork featured in "Frontera" gets at serious matters of the heart-the hardships of immigration, racism, and poverty, and of trying to feel at home when home is left behind. It speaks to those who have died trying to come to America and to those whose illegal alien status pursues their lives in this country.

The exhibition includes Benitez' tiny landscapes painted on corn, rice, and other seeds, depicting scenes from Minnesota on one side and Mexico on the other. Fitch's mixed media work illustrates the opportunities that have drawn Mexicans to Minnesota and the risks they take to come here. A Central American-style trinket cart by Horochowski is packed with saleable art miniatures, including surrogate figures of the Frontera artists themselves, costumed as pop-culture wrestlers. Intense symbolist paintings by Padilla reference the North and the South, connecting the Mississippi with the desert. Spiritual paintings by Rodriquez A. are inspired by her students and the landscape of her homeland. Tavera's large-scale color photographs reveal Latinos as ghostly figures.

Each of the six Frontera artists provides a unique perspective; from newcomer to second-generation immigrant, they all have connections to Mexico, Argentina, and Chile.

The experience of transcultural living has given the Frontera artists the gift of double identity and double vision. It is a vision that teaches cultural relativity. To bring these concepts to life the "Frontera Six" borrow from Mexican popular culture, each assuming the persona of a wrestler (in Mexico, famous wrestlers are respected as pop heroes). Creating wrestler characters, the Frontera artists have invented names, and designed and made their own masks and costumes. Photographs of the "wrestlers" accompany the exhibit and serve as a theatrical way to reconcile and celebrate "high" and "low" art.

Cynde Randall is an artist and Senior Program Associate for the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program (MAEP). The MAEP is made possible by generous support from the Jerome Foundation.

Frontera Lake Street
October to December 2, 2001
Minnesota Artists Gallery

Citation: Cynde Randall, "Wrestling with Issues: Six Latino artists, assuming the personae of pop wrestlers, show their art in a group exhibition." Arts 24, no.8 (October 2001): 18.