Wednesday, August 31, 2005
My Cathedral (Che Guevara and César Chávez): Alex Donis: 1997
Although the pairing of Che Guevara and César Chávez in a homosexual embrace is fictional, I personally enjoy the thread of reality inherent in the painting. Both of these characters never actually kissed, but in this painting, the paradox is that they have and have not.
I created this work to try and melt down the stoicism in male Latino heroic figures and address the fear in feminizing masculinity.
Galería de la Raza in San Francisco approached me to do this exhibition as part of their "Regeneration Project." At that time I sat down and wrote out a list of historical characters that I considered my personal heroes. Both Che Guevara and César Chávez were on that
When I first visited Galería de la Raza in the Mission District, I noticed several murals around the neighborhood depicting both Che Guevara and César Chávez. During my visits I continually reflected on what connections I had with this community as an artist, a Latino, and as a gay man.
Returning home to Los Angeles, I made several drawings of these characters on translucent vellum. On a light table I laid them side by side so that it seemed they were almost embracing. Soon after, I began collecting images of people kissing, from the Pope kissing the head of a small child, to the deep throat kissing found in pornography. I created several other fictionalized pairings of historical characters kissing one another and decided to paint the final works onto plexiglass light boxes. During the run of the exhibition they lit up onto the streets in reference to the stained glass of churches or cathedrals.
I realized that joining these two almost cult figures in Latino culture, positioned them on the frontline of a very different cause, subverting and redefining the rhetoric to which they had historically been so entrenched.
The exhibition caused a mass hysteria that swirled around the neighborhood of the Mission and ultimately caused the destruction of this painting.* Ironically the window smashing occurred on the 15th of September 1997, the day Latinos march to celebrate their independence.