Cheech Marin visited campus last Thursday, March 7, to discuss his collection of artwork currently on display at Mulvane Art Museum. Chicanitas: Small Paintings from the Cheech Marin Collection is on display at the museum until Friday, May 16.
In his presentation, Marin described the history of Chicano art as well as how the term has evolved overtime to become the school of art that it is today. The word Chicano originally began as a divisive, derogatory term for Mexican-Americans used by Mexican people living in Mexico to separate Mexican-Americans from the culture of Mexico.
“Those Mexicanos who are living in a foreign land now, we are not going to recognize because they have left their country…So Chicano meant that they were something less, something smaller,” said Marin.
Chicano artwork gained popularity during the Chicano political movement of the 1960s. Chicano since became more of a self-identifying category, a term reclaimed by Mexican-Americans to represent this movement.
“So a Chicano is a Mexican-American with a defiant, literate attitude,” said Marin.
Today, Chicano artwork represents a growing demographic of people and their culture. Marin said that when children go to an art museum, they want to see depictions of people who look like them. With a growing population, Mexican-American culture has gained visibility and representation in the world of art. Marin said that this collection is for them. It is intended to be inclusive and remind them that they are part of this story.
Marin is pleased that he has the opportunity to share this artwork and its message with communities around the United States and the world.
“It’s interesting in that I get to take this collection,” said Marin, “Because the pieces are smaller and easier to transport, it gets to visit more communities. I can take this Chicano art and get it to people who may never have seen it before.”
Why small artwork? Marin said that small artwork is more intimate for the viewer and it forces the artist to be clear and concise in getting their message across through the piece.
“They whisper to you,” said Marin, “Like they’re telling you a secret.”
Marin then took the audience on a tour of the artwork through a slideshow presentation, describing his experiences with the artists, the impact these pieces had on him personally, and the pieces’ connection to the collection.
Marin said that the future of Chicano artwork is bright. He said he does not know what it will look like, but he is excited to see how it will evolve. For now, he is excited to share the this part of Mexican-American culture through his travelling collection.
“I set up this art show in order to show what the face of this was. This is what it looks like in artistic terms,” Marin said. “And it’s not a history lesson…it gives the flavor of what it means to be Chicano.”