[image#1, align=left, size=medium] A conceptual, tongue in-cheek, peek at the downside of popular art and media awaits viewers at the STC Art Gallery. “MEXtasy: Seductive Hallucinations of Latina/o Mannequins Prowling the American Unconscious” is an exhibit informed by William Anthony Nericcio’s 2007 book, Text}-Mex: Seductive Hallucinations of the “Mexican” in America. It is all on display.
[image#2, align=left, size=medium]Writer/artist William Nericcio discovered an unsettling truth while teaching Literature at the University of Connecticut. His students accepted the negative Mexican stereotypes of the mid 20th century ad world as reality. He also became more acutely aware that the false and insulting stereotyping is still alive.
[image#3, align=left, size=medium]“Every time I would teach Latin American literature,” explained Nericcio, “my students would bring nothing but demented stereotypes into the classroom. I got sick of that. I was teaching Garcia Lorca and Octavio Paz, and lecturing on Latin American Intellectual history, and a student stopped the class to say, ‘Is there one?’ And everyone tittered. It changed my life. I realized that I couldn’t just teach world-changing Latin American literature; I had to address it (the misconceptions).”
[image#4, align=left, size=medium]The exhibit contains collaged works by Nericcio, stereotypical facsimile objects he has collected from the pop culture world, and works by other artists whose art addresses this genre. The show operates on several levels. At the shallow end are derogatory and glamorous images that appear lighthearted. But there also lurks the undercurrent of prejudice and condescension that reflected an aspect of American society.
[image#5, align=left, size=medium]Throughout the exhibit, Nericcio’s personal commentaries document his reactions to his “retarded reliquary of Tex[t]-Mex artifacts.” Reading these thoughts is critical to a full understanding of the objects’ implications.
[image#6, align=left, size=medium]For instance, the mannequin facsimile, “Maria,” produced by the Danbury Mint, seems a pleasant and charming doll. But a deeper observation compares her with another facsimile by that same mint, “JFK, Jr.” who is shown patriotically saluting his dead father. Maria, by contrast, is resting after helping her “mamacita” prepare homemade food. Both her gender and her nationality are negatively objectified.
[image#7, align=left, size=medium]“Mexican for a Day,” by Paul Valadez, is a life-sized mixed media installation depicting a male figure in a Mariachi-like suit with sombrero; his female companion wears a flowery blouse, folkloric skirt and yellow rebozo. Their heads are cutout so that visitors may have their picture taken as “Mexicans.” OK, we all participated in this one at the exhibit’s reception.
“The Existential Guillotine,” a digital mixed media by Nericcio, is about the actress Rita Hayworth, or as she was known before the severing of her national identity, Margarita Carmen Dolores Cancino.
Anglos/Caucasians/Gringos have also been reduced to caricatures and toys as shown in “Reconstructed Lightness, or Caucasian City.”
MEXtasy was curated by Rachael Freyman Brown, assisted by Amanda Alejos and the artist. This exhibit, rich with imagery, ideas, and artworks, should not be missed. Seriously, consider a book purchase.
Nancy Moyer, Professor Emerita of Art from UTPA, is an art critic for The Monitor. She may be reached at email@example.com