by Pat McConahay
In 1983 Art Luna
was one of the first Sacramento restaurant owners to invite local artists
to show their works on his walls. He saw this as a way to get art before
the masses, especially Latino art, which wasn't always embraced by mainstream
Much of Latino Art
uses a bold style, which reflects the struggles they've undergone, particularly
in the farm fields where they've toiled for so many generations. Seventy-eight-year-old
Benny Barrios is considered Sacramento's pioneering Mexican American
painter. It was in 1954 that this modest son of farmworkers began breaking
down barriers. He was the first Latino to show at the Crocker Art Museum.
series was called "Wetbacks" and portrayed the plight of the
migratory farm worker stealing across the border. While some of Barrios's
pieces make biting political statements, the majority of his work reflects
his love for Sacramento and for the rough and tumble neighborhood he
grew up in. 44th and T was an area of prostitutes and bars. Barrios
captured the hard-pressed time. This soft-spoken artist paved the way
for the next wave of Mexican painters-the rebellious Chicano generation
of the 70s-artists that combined an in-your-face art with protest and
Jose Montoya and
fellow artists, collaborated with labor leader Cesar Chavez to fight
for the rights of farmworkers. Their artistic posters carried the messages
of the movement. Later Montoya co-founded the ground-breaking Chicano
artist's cooperative, humorously dubbed the Royal Chicano Air Force
or RCAF. As a retired art professor, Montoya also influences up-and-coming
Latino artists. The preservation of a precious cultural commodity like
art, rests in their paint brushes.
Zeneida (ZENIDA) Cid symbolizes the new generation of Chicano artist.
Her themes are more mainstream than those of her activist forebears.
However, she's still influenced by her father Armando Cid, an early
RCAF member. Cid is an education outreach assistant for the Sacramento
Metropolitan Arts Commission, with degrees in art history and anthropology
from U.C. Davis. She says today's young Latino artists are better educated
than those who've gone before, and education is key to turning out a
new legion of Latino artists.
Cid, who's work
is showing at Luna's Café, says another way Latino art can flourish
is by changing the attitude some have that it's just folk rather than
fine art-fit for any mainstream gallery. If there's to be a future for
these young artists and their cultural contributions we must preserve
A major effort to
archive and catalogue these timeless treasures is underway at Sacramento's
La Raza Galleria Posada. Founded in 1972, its mission is to advance
and celebrate Chicano and Latino culture. Marisa Gutierrez is the creative
director. What Latino Art can bring to everyone is a proud and vibrant
history. It's a culture that's helped shape the Central Valley through
the bold strokes of the artist's brush.