MALAQUÍAS MONTOYA – CALIFORNIA ARTIST
IN HIS OWN WORDS:
In the 1960s a lot of Chicano artists got together, we certainly did in the Bay Area. We formed an organization called MALAF, the Mexican American Liberation Art Front. And the purpose for that organization was to discuss our role, what do we do as artists? What do we do and there was plenty of discussions, how we would use our art, and who our art was going to be for. And it was the most natural thing to come out was that our art would be for nuestra gente.
And in these meetings we talked about how many of us felt about who we were–El Indio, La India, El
Negrito–you know, those names that we were called and how terrible we felt. And all of a sudden we are discussing what a beautiful people we are and how we should look at ourselves. So we were talking about: we have to create an image of ourselves that we are going to be proud of. And we’re sitting there and talking about what we should do for the first exhibition. And then I think it was Rene YaZez who came up with the title “New Symbols for La Nueva Raza.” And we talked about let’s just get a face out there. And we said, “Well what face? And there was a young man, with a brown beret and he was a poet, Manuel Gomez.
He is now Vice-Chancellor of UC Riverside. He used to come to those meetings and he had a face that looked like it had been chiseled out of stone by some Mayan, an incredible face. So we said let’s take Manuel and each of us represent him in our own medium. So that first exhibition was a room ful of images of Manuel Gomez. So
that now we were proud of that Indian side of us that we had denied, that we didn’t want to admit, that we had been made to feel shamed of was now something to look at with pride and say, my gosh, we are a beautiful people!.
What motivated me was that artists were now questioning what it was that they were doing. I think the
Chicano Movement at that time called for something different, it called a seriousness that was different, a seriousness that called for the artist to be a responsible individual and not just to himself but to a community.
The movimiento itself called for a different type of person, if we going to bring about social change then we somehow also have to transform ourselves into something that we’re talking about.
A Chicano means an attitude, it means that I am seriously involved in trying to bring about change to our community, not just to our community but to all people who find themselves in the margins of society.