by Ernest Hogan
I've always been an artist. Before I could write, I would draw stories. I never stopped. So it's no suprise that some of my drawings have ended up on display in a gallery.
Specficly, Sector 2337 in Chicago, along with Josh Rios and Anthony Romero's Please Don't Bury Me Alive! Part Two, "a project space installation that features various arrangements of the artifacts from their inaugural performance alongside other works that deal with Chicano centered imagery and histories."
My work fits well there. Just randomly flipping through my sketchbooks, just about everything seems Chicano, even when I get sci-fi, cartoony, surrealistic, or even abstract. Even when I'm not trying to be.
I wonder why. And what is Chicano art anyway?
Is it the use of pre-Columbian images? How is it different from Native American art? Certainly, the relationship between artists and their audiences differs in the cases for Chicanos and Natives . . .
Maybe it's the iconic imagery. Some might say stererotypes. Cartooning is all about stereotypes. It can also transform the stereotypes. It's a dangerous game that can become a shooting war.
Could it be style? I tend toward expressionistic slash work, and get bored when it comes to the fussy stuff that impresses a lot of people. But there are Chicanos who can do traditional realism as well as any European.
Maybe it's attitude. Chicano, in this century, is becoming more an attitude than an ethnicty. How much is culture, and how much is blood?
It could be the documenting ot the Chicano experience. But what is the Chicano experience? I used to amuse myself at family gatherings that if I made a tape recording of the conversations, then transcribed them, no one would believe it. It would be considered magic realism, sci-fi, or some such abomination. Anglos would doubt that Chicanos would do or say such things.
I've always had an uneasy relationship with both fine and commercial art. The fine art would say I was too commercial, and not abstract enough – I always have something to say, and that tends to upset the delicate sensibilities of wealthy patrons. The commercial art crowd found me too undisciplined, and uncontrolable – I can't seem to just translate their lame ideas into bland visuals. I have my own ideas. Lots of them.
That's another Chicano thing – having something to say. I remember from back in my college days during the last gasp of modernism, overhearing an Anglo art teacher saying, after showing a film about José Guadalupe Posada, “Looks like he was mostly interesting in storytelling.” He made it sound like a vile perversion.
All this made me concentrate more on writing than art. But somehow, I couldn't stop. I just keep creating. It's what I do.
I also wonder about all the other artistic Chicano/as out there. How most of them get discouraged. How many lost masterpieces are hidden in the barrios?