Miguel Gonzales is a photographer and graphic artist born in San Antonio, TX and now living in Spokane. He explores Mexican American biculturalism through combining photography and illustration, and also curates www.ltnxartes.com —the only online marketplace in Eastern Washington for Latinx arts & culture.
In addition to helping build a creative Latinx community, Gonzales is producing and showing his own works. He recently teamed up with Jeni Hegsted at Coeur d'Alene’s Emerge Gallery to create Nuestro Esperanza, Nuestro Futura , a show that explored the hopes and dreams of Latinx artists in the Pacific Northwest.
Miguel answered some questions from us about his own artistic journey and growing the Latinx community in the Pacific Northwest with LTNX artes . And as a special bonus, Miguel also gave us some of his amazing prints you can download and use as Zoom backgrounds. Find them here!
What inspired you to start LTNX artes?
Being a part of Chicano arts spaces in San Antonio, TX in the early nineties, like the Gallista Gallery , allowed me to develop my style of art, come closer to the Chicano community, and collaborate across the state with other Chicanos by common life experiences.
With ltnxartes.com, I wanted to create a space for Latino/a/x creatives to develop their cultural expression, and have a safe space to share what they feel about their Latinidad from the Pacific Northwest. Culture for a Latinx person can be very complicated having a wide diversity among our own community. Being a Mexican, Colombian, Puerto Rican, Peruvian, Guatemalan, Honduran, etc. is not all the same! We each have our own Spanish dialects, Indigenous languages, textiles, foods, religious interpretations, and colonized complexities.
Spokane is not ready to accept an openly expressive Latinx culture publicly just yet. Spokane has yet to see and understand the diversity in the community of color that has been hidden in its history.
Moving to the northern border was a culture shock. It took me almost a year to find my gente. I connected with the Hispanic Business Professionals Association (HPBA). There I met other Latinx people from all over the world! Spokane has a diverse Latinx community. More so than San Antonio and central Texas. I like the different dialects and various foods I can experience with the community here.
Having an online marketplace like LTNXartes.com empowers us to connect and collaborate while not being limited to one city's limits. Our culture is a migratory one, and the internet allows us to migrate across borders seamlessly growing and evolving into the next generation of Latinidad.
How does your cultural background influence your creative practice?
I don’t include a culture to my art because everything I am is a reflection of what I am. I am a brown man with a non-white image of myself. I am not Mexican-American, but Mexican and American. My art is the visual expression of being bicultural.
I draw the bicultural person as a simplified illustration, not perfectly real, because as a people go we are incomplete. Regardless if we are first, second or even fifth generation. Both photography and illustration aren’t mixed media. No, they can both stand apart from each other. I create a single piece from two separate mediums to symbolize how I am one person of two separate cultures.
What three qualities do you need to be a successful visual artist?
My success as a visual artist comes from the animo I feel from my family, and my gente. I feel the success of an artist is not measured by the sales, how many shows, how grand an installation is, how large a piece is, or even if they make a living as an artist. It’s how they shape a creative community. I feel a successful artist is the person that communicates their vision in a manner that cultivates a more connected community. This creative energy, or animo, is what drives me to create the bicultural world I live everyday.
Has being on lockdown changed your creative process at all?
I have access to connect with other Latinx creatives across the world in an online space like Zoom. Which is not much different than having a conversation in Spanish while existing in a white space! Many artists of color can thrive in isolation because we are used to the social isolation in a white-dominated space.
During this COVID-19 lockdown, I have not experienced any change from social connection with creatives in Texas, Washington, Mexico, New York, or California. On Dia de los Niños, April 30th, I co-hosted a platica. A "talk" on being bicultural in today’s America. We discussed common issues, hopes for self identity, and food. Lots of talk about food! People of color connecting within our own isolated online space. For us isolation, creating alone, and conversing in a closed space is not a challenge—this is our strength.