As part of ASU’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations, Phoenix-based artists explore elements of the Latinx experience through print, painting and photography.
Veronica Verdugo-Lomeli, an artist and the curator for the exhibition, said the title, which translates to "Eye of the Heart," speaks to the ways in which Latinx individuals express themselves creatively.
"I think our eye, the way we see things, always correlates to what's at the core of us – at our heart,” she said. “That's where pride is in our culture and our heritage and our people and what we do and how we express ourselves.”
Verdugo-Lomeli’s featured artwork, both print and paintings, showcases aspects of Hispanic culture related to women.
One of her pieces depicts a female folklorico dancer whose joy, she said, speaks to the same cultural inspiration she feels when painting.
“The look on the dancers' faces – they have that same focus of when I'm into a painting and I'm in my creative zone,” she said. “I just get filled with that same pride, that cultural and heritage pride.”
Angelo Lomeli, Verdugo-Lomeli’s son, has photographs featured in the exhibition as well.
Lomeli said his photographs, which feature close-up shots of local plant-life, are intended to speak to a universal audience.
“I am Hispanic, but I don’t even speak Spanish like my whole family does,” he said. “So I guess I’m not as culture-fluent as a lot of the people I’m always around are. So, I think for me, showing those plants themselves is ... something that would be relatable to everyone.”
Alexander Avina, associate professor at ASU’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, said broad cultural awareness is valuable for college students.
“I think it's always a positive thing to expose students to cultures, to histories, to cultural artifacts that come from beyond their own communities,” he said. “We tend to think of culture as something that's like a bounded domain, when in reality these cultures demonstrate the influence of so many different cultures.”
Monica-Gisel Crespo has both prints and paintings in the gallery, many featuring hummingbirds. Crespo said hummingbirds are prominent figures in Aztec folklore and are believed to be the reincarnations of warriors who died in battle.
“When I saw the hummingbird and connected the story with my own beliefs, it’s like: We die every day, we become a warrior every day, and we face life every day with armor and then, at the end of the day, we become a hummingbird in a very spiritual way,” she said.
Crespo said her artwork was a way for her to come to terms with being a dark-skinned Hispanic while growing up in a primarily white Spanish environment in Mexico City.
“When I realized that I was an artist, my whole life changed,” she said. “That’s when I said ‘Well, that’s why I have this vision that is different from everyone else. It’s because I’m an artist ... I perceive my own culture in a different way.' And now, putting all things together, being an artist, being Mexican, being dark-skinned, being an immigrant, being a mother, being a professional, being everything altogether, it’s making my art even stronger and realizing who I am completely.”
Verdugo-Lomeli said she also sees artwork as a tool to continue the tradition of Hispanic cultures.
“It's artists who bring out those stories,” she said. “Sometimes it's not just our own story, but it's a story that somebody shares with us, and we can relate to it.”
“You got to keep the culture alive,” she said. “Gotta keep the stories alive because we help each other that way.”