Art lecture aims to paint immigrants in a positive light

“Art, Immigration, and Resistance” was both the title and main theme of the fine art focused virtual lecture hosted by Cal Poly Pomona professor Alvaro Huerta and the Los Angeles based non-profit organization Art Division on Oct. 8. The webinar explored the many obstacles encountered by the Latinx community and ways to combat discriminatory views against immigrants in the United States.

Throughout the lecture, Huerta, an associate professor in urban planning and ethnic and women’s studies, utilized paintings by his brother Salomon Huerta and photographs to discuss the history of immigrants as he recollected his experiences growing up in East Los Angeles as a Mexican American in an immigrant family.

“It has to do with using art as a medium to tell a story about immigrants and to humanize them,” Huerta said. “Statistics are important but when you know people as human beings, it’s more difficult to put them in cages.”

Salomon Huerta’s “Los tres caballeros” conveys three Mexican Americans fighting against police brutality by killing “pigs,” depicted as police officers, in order to defend their neighborhoods. (Courtesy of Salomon Huerta)

Through the use of his brother’s art, Huerta provided insights on various paintings and deciphered their meanings as they related to the Latinx struggle. Among some of the artwork were depictions of childhood heroes from the 70s like Mexican luchadores. Art reflecting historic moments for the Latinx community, such as the murder of journalist Ruben Salazar at the hand of an LA County sheriff’s officer, was presented to help the audience better understand the perspectives of immigrants.

Jose Calderon, a professor of sociology and Chicano/a and Latino/a studies at Pitzer College and featured panelist, described how effectually Huerta’s art captured the painful feelings that many Latinx immigrants can resonate with.

“It is a realist art that represents the struggles of the Mexican and Latinx people in fighting assimilation, uplifting the immigrant spirit and continuing to use art as a form of expressing the survival of barrios, our culture and our movement,” said Calderon.

The lecture, however, did not only serve as a form of artistic expression of the prejudice immigrants have encountered for decades, but it also addressed the longstanding lack of representation and consideration of the Hispanic community within governmental affairs.

“The case of brown people in this country has always been marginalized and our voices have not been heard,” said Huerta. “We are still invisible, and that issue needs to be front and center in debates taking place today.”

Weaving allegorical art pieces with discussions of immigration policy and the effects of xenophobic attitudes, Huerta attempted to address the dichotomy between ethnicities while highlighting inalienable human rights.

Following the discussion, Catherine Hess, president of the board of directors and museum curator at Art Division, said, “I am a white art curator… but I was fascinated by the interconnectedness of the artwork with the issues of racism, immigration policy and xenophobia. The presentation was fascinating, factual and enthralling.”

For those interested in attending a similar art lecture, the “State Violence, Race, Migration & Resistance in the U.S.” webinar presented by Huerta in September can be streamed for free on YouTube.

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