Last month I was invited to participate in a group show titled “Cross City,” held at the Voz Alta gallery in Barrio Logan. The theme of the show was to bring together emerging young artists from both sides of the San Diego (US) and Tijuana (Mexico) border region. I was happy to be invited, and planned on showing an encaustic painting I had recently began working on. Adrian Garcia from Con Design House, who curated the show, asked me if I would be interested in preparing a speech for the event. His brief was to describe my work, and how living on the border has affected my work, if it has at all. I generously accepted his offer and decided to post the transcript in full-length below. — Jordan
In order to describe my work and how living next to the border has affected it, particularly the painting on display tonight (“Apollo v Mars”), I started by asking myself, “Why do I create? Why did I begin creating?” Ultimately, the philosophy is not one I’m very comfortable with because its at odds with two of the very things I often scorn the most in life — which is self-service, and self-righteousness.
The two reasons I create is because I want to effect change, and I want to understand as much as I can. I want to be a catalyst for certain new things to happen, certain old things to pass, and certain things to just stay the same; but also because I’ve always wanted to see life through a clearer lens, and the answers I was given to big questions never seemed quite right to me. It’s tricky to navigate these waters without running into serious ethical concerns, which is why art is the probably one of the safest places for me to operate because it encourages critique and allows time to pass before assigning value or weight.
My work in this show is no exception. It’s an expression and representation of my drive to affect, and my drive to understand — using this specific format, mediums, forms of communication, time, place and temperament. Depending on what I want or need to do, my medium and approach changes but the core philosophy is always there — to affect and/or understand. Attempting to explain all the decisions, stories, and changes in mood that comprise this painting would take hours and be impossible to fully articulate. The painting itself is a word or sentence in a much larger story. The painting itself is language.
This leads into how growing up 10 miles away from the largest international border crossing in the world has affected my work. It has undoubtably had a tremendous impact on my work because its had a tremendous impact on me. For better or worse, driving 10 miles south to a man-made wall that effectively separates two distinct cultures of people is really an unbelievably unique experience. I think at first it’s very easy and compelling to focus on the contrasts; such a language, landscape, social-economic disparity, rules of law, religion, and ethnicity. Whether these are things to appreciate or fear, necessary or unnecessary, these contrasts are a case of humanity splitting hairs. In the big scheme of things we’re not very different at all and that was never more evident than after watching Carl Sagan’s short piece “You Are Here,” which is referenced in my piece. (Video included below)
I grew up hearing Spanish all around me, but never learning how to speak it. My Mom and her side of the family is from Costa Rica and came to California less than 40 years ago. I can communicate with my grandparents but it’s difficult to hold a verbal conversation with my grandfather because I don’t know Spanish very well, and he doesn’t know English very well. I grew up perceiving the wall as the obstacle the separates me from the world they’re from, which is only true in some respects. Regardless, I think because of growing up with English and Spanish all around me and having a knack for drawing, I naturally became fascinated by visual communication that transcended any one written or spoken language. Logos, icons, symbols, typography, fashion, film, painting. The work I’m most proud of can be understood, familiar, or appreciated on some level regardless of where someone lives, but meanwhile still remain true to my time and place. I think that influence probably comes in large part due to growing up in Bonita, California and having experiences at a young age in Tijuana, Rosarito, and Ensenada Mexico.
At the end of the day, we are all one species that has sought to effectively dominate Earth. We are now at a point in civilization where it is becoming increasingly necessary to build less walls and more bridges in order to solve issues that transcend map lines. I hope that this show represents the blue print for a very essential regional bridge, and in doing so sets a precedent on how to hurdle walls around the world.
Thanks for listening and coming out tonight. Cheers and Saludos