Going Public: Southeast Celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month with Artist Fidencio Duran

Oct 9, 2016

As celebrations for National Hispanic Heritage month continue, the Crisp Museum at Southeast’s River Campus is hosting the exhibit Estamos Aquí. The exhibit showcases modernized serigraphs created by 40 artists. Many of which show the Latino and Chicano experience. KRCU's Marissanne Lewis-Thompson spoke with Fidencio Duran, a featured artist in the Estamos Aquí exhibit.

Lewis-Thompson: The exhibit is called Estamos Aquí (We are Here) and it can be seen in the Crisp Museum on the River Campus. And of the pieces that are on display you all used the silk screen print technique. What exactly is that?

Duran: Well, silk screening is a technique that was actually developed in Japan. And it was literally a silk screen, and they cut out a template to make the image. And that's the basis of it. The way this was done was that we used a photo emulsion to actually make the screen, because each color has to be pressed or printed individually and you press it through a screen literally. That's why they call it silk screen. You take a squeegee and you press it through the screen. Of course the stencil blocks out what you don't want printed. And then you do that with each individual color.

Lewis-Thompson: Now I saw your piece called Dejo Flores y Canciones and it has very beautiful and vibrant colors. Why did you choose those particular colors? And tell me a little bit about that piece.

Duran: Dejo Flores y Canciones, which as you said translates to "I will leave flowers and songs" is actually a phrase that I took from reading about a specific poet warrior who was I guess a ruler in the Aztec empire. And I thought it was very poignant. In other words when I go, I want to be remembered for having left flowers and songs, which seems very peaceful. You know a very peaceful type of attitude or approach to ruling or to being. And I thought that was very interesting. I really liked that. And then the imagery is based on a young woman's quinceañera, which is the 15th birthday party which is traditional in the Mexican and other cultures as well. It's basically--it's a um. I guess it's like a debut. You know like young women have debuts or they you know have little parties to introduce them to society in this case. They're introduced as being a--

Lewis-Thompson: So a coming of age.

Duran: A coming of age. But it's also--there's also the correlation with the church. My niece when she had her quinceañera there was also a pledge to the church, or to your faith. Not necessarily the church, but to your faith. This is my pledge. And so, it's part of the birthday. Kind of the coming of age as you said.

Lewis-Thompson: So the name of the exhibit itself, Estamos Aquí is a simple yet powerful statement. What does it mean to you?

Duran: I think it relates a lot to my work. Because my work is drawn from my family's history, our experiences. And I think it shows that the Hispanic culture has been in this country, this part of the world for a very long time. As have other cultures, but it's not always presented in certainly in the media, in the movies, in the books, and in the art exhibits. So for me it means that these experiences have existed for a very long time. And with the help of serigraphy, we can make it more accessible. Accessible to more people and to more places. That's what it means to me. My parents were from Mexico. My father immigrated when he was a child with his parents. And my mother's parents as well during and after the Mexican revolution. And our people have been in this country for over 100 years--my direct family. And it's just you know up until now I guess in the last 20 years or so that you see more and more of the influence and I'm amazed you know. I travel regularly once or twice a year I go outside of the state and I'm always amazed to see to what extent it has grown. I mean I was in Washington D.C. last week, and Virginia. And there's Latin Americans. There's people from all over the world that are walking around, and specific to Mexican people you know they're opening little restaurants. They're living. They're working. And they're part of our fabric.

Lewis-Thompson: What types of stories do we see from your own childhood, your own family experiences? Tell me about that.

Duran: There's a variety of stories. I've done stories of being along the cotton fields. When I was a child my parent, my family, my brothers and sister--we lived as tenant farmers in central Texas near Lockhart. And one of the main crops was cotton and they picked cotton you know they picked cotton. And I was too young to do that. I'm one of ten, but I'm the third youngest. And so by the time, actually by the time that I was old enough to do that we were no longer doing that--living that way. So, there's images of working. A lot of images of working. There's images of family gatherings, get-togethers. I have one of spinning records. Spinning 45s on the porch you know with the light on at night. Out in the middle of the rural area. So, there's a lot of rural scenes, but always people together doing things--working. I did a painting of recalling when we used to butcher hogs for Christmas time. And those events the families would get together and they would all help. Because if you need a lot of people helping you if you're going to butcher a hog, you know the men are outside doing all the dirty work. Well not the dirty work. I can't say that, but the hard work. The heavy work. And the women are inside doing the cleaning or whatever else is involved. And it takes a group of people, because you have to do it in one day. You can just say  'oh we'll put it aside.' And you have to do it when it's cold enough so that it's not you know too many flies around and stuff like that. So it takes a whole group to do these types of things in that time. So, there's images of that. There's also images that relate to our church. Not certainly not the religious aspect, but one of the things that I recall very clearly was that we always had festivals known as jamaica, spelled just like Jamaica. And they were church bazaars. There usually were over a weekend you know, and it was a little festival. You'd have concessions, snow cones, things like that. And then there's also you know little games. Toss rings over bottles. And there was always a queen. You know different young women young ladies would be the candidates and they would sell raffle tickets and you know whoever sold the most was the queen or whatever. But it was a festival in a church setting. And it was very significant. I remember going to those quite a bit when I was a child. Very significant.

Lewis-Thompson: So what else can we expect from the exhibit?

Duran: Well I think it's very interesting, because it covers it includes a variety of artists from different generations. There are younger artists. And then there's artists like myself. So I think it's very interesting to see the breath of imagery that's in the exhibit. Things that are overtly political, socially minded themes, and others that they are, but they do it in a different way. And there's a great combination of styles. There are artists that use photography. Artists that don't use photography. Some that include text in their work. Some that don't. And also, there's a lot of work by women artists. It seems to be a pretty fair representation. I think they did a good job. And we always did of making sure that there was an equitable amount of different backgrounds that are in the exhibit.