Four Southwest-based artists won the 2023 Latinx Artist Fellowship—each receiving $50,000 in unrestricted funds—including Margarita Cabrera, Verónica Gaona, Postcommodity, and Daisy Quezada Ureña.
PHOENIX—Texas-based artist Verónica Gaona has vivid memories of getting an unexpected phone call during the summer when she learned that she was one of fifteen artists chosen as a 2023 Latinx Artist Fellow for the United States Latinx Art Forum, an organization that seeks to elevate the voices of Latinx visual artists.
“It was unreal,” recalls Gaona, a multidisciplinary artist who works primarily in sculpture, installation, performance, and digital media. “At that moment, it felt like all the hard work, sacrifice, and studio time I’d put into my practice was completely worth it.”
Gaona is one of four recipients based in the Southwest—along with Margarita Cabrera of Arizona and Texas, Daisy Quezada Ureña of New Mexico, and Postcommodity (Cristóbal Martínez and Kade L. Twist) of Tempe, Arizona, and Los Angeles.
Every fellow receives an unrestricted $50,000 award.
For Gaona, an adjunct professor at the University of Houston who says her art practice centers on “ideas related to architecture, migration, and death,” the support will help expand a relatively new body of work that incorporates the trokiando (streetwear inspired by custom truck lifestyle aesthetics) of Mexican American car culture.
“I plan to spend more time in the studio, putting together my family’s fragmented history across borders,” explains Gaona. “I’m also thinking about the ways Latinx identities are influenced by spanning different worlds.”
This year’s fellows, who include both emerging and established artists, were selected from over 200 nominees. They’re the third cohort for the fellowship, which was launched in 2021.
The seven-member jury for 2023 included two panelists based in the Southwest: Mari Carmen Ramírez, curator of Latin American Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and Josie Lopez, head curator at the Albuquerque Museum.
Latinx Artist Fellow Margarita Cabrera, an interdisciplinary and social practice artist born in Mexico, is perhaps best known for her collaborative projects, including Space in Between. The series comprises soft sculptures created during community workshops, where participants sew their own stories into cactus forms made with border patrol uniforms.
Based in Arizona and Texas, Cabrera focuses on “socio-political community issues including cultural identity, migration, violence, inclusivity, labor, and empowerment.” Often, she works at the “intersection of contemporary art, Indigenous Mexican folk art and craft traditions, and U.S.-Mexico relations.”
Currently, Cabrera’s 2006-2022 installation Agua que no has de beber déjala correr (Water That You Should Not Drink, Let It Run) is part of the Denver Art Museum exhibition Desert Rider, which is on view through September 24, 2023. Here, dozens of sculptural Hummer H3 SUVs created with vinyl, thread, and model parts are suspended from the ceiling to approximate the line of the current U.S.-Mexico border.
Like Gaona, New Mexico multidisciplinary artist Daisy Quezada Ureña recalls her surprise when learning she’d been named a 2023 Latinx Artist Fellow. “I had so many emotions and it was kind of surreal,” Quezada Ureña says. “I felt grateful and humble; being recognized and supported this way is very motivational.”
In addition to her Santa Fe art practice, Quezada Ureña serves as faculty and studio art department chair for the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. Her studio practice primarily includes ceramics, installations, and artist books that address identity and place about “social structures that cross imposed borders.” For one body of work, she transforms garments with porcelain slip as a way to explore life in the borderlands.
Quezada Ureña says she’s considering ways the fellowship could impact her practice moving forward, such as helping her realize more collaborative work or community engagement projects.
“I have some ideas but they’re all very abstract right now so I need to figure out the logistics,” she says. In at least one case, she’s thinking about regional issues. “Could there be a more critical conversation about what it means to be a Latin, Mexican American, or Chicano living in the American Southwest?” she wonders, adding, “People don’t always look at the complications of this.”
Both Quezada Ureña and Gaona note that they’re part of a group show expected to open in October 2023 at the Chicano Park Museum, although the San Diego venue has yet to publicly announce exhibition details.
Meanwhile, the interdisciplinary Indigenous art collective Postcommodity, which was also named a 2023 Latinx Artist Fellow, is showing in Between Life and Land: Crisis. The exhibition continues through October 29, 2023, at the Kimball Art Center in Park City, Utah, where the collective spent time this summer as a 2023 artist-in-residence.
Postcommodity includes artists Kade Twist (Cherokee) of California and Cristóbal Martinez (Mestizo) of Arizona, who create primarily sound, video, installation, and performance pieces that bring Indigenous narratives and critiques to systems that dominate economic, environmental, and political spheres.
Their multi-channel video A Very Long Line (2016), which was filmed along the U.S.-Mexico border, was part of the 2017 Whitney Biennial in New York. Today, their multi-channel video Going to Water (2021) addressing ecological disaster is part of the Kimball Art Center show.
It’s too soon to know the myriad ways the 2023 Latinx Artist Fellowship award will impact the depth and breadth of these artists’ creative practices. Even so, Gaona says she’s already taking inspiration as a current cohort, in part because one of her university professors, Houston-based printmaker and photographer Delilah Montoya, was named a fellow in 2021.
“I’m already seeing the ways this whole project is working,” says Gaona, “including making important connections between multigenerational artists.”