Hispanic Heritage Month: UArizona Artist Explores 'Merging of Two Cultures'
Alejandro Macias, assistant professor in the School of Art, is showing his work in several exhibitions celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.
Alejandro Macias has lived much of his life in "the gray area." The assistant professor in the University of Arizona School of Art says much of his art reflects his experience in that space – somewhere in between identifying as Mexican and identifying as American.
Macias was born and raised in Brownsville, Texas, along the U.S.-Mexico border. He says he was raised in a "hybrid culture," experiencing assimilation as a child before he really understood what that meant.
"I grew up just speaking Spanish," says Macias, who joined the UArizona faculty in 2019. "I started to assimilate at a very young age, around third grade. I started to emphasize the English language and I started to neglect Spanish. It was a mixture of a conscious and subconscious effort to fit in. I use my work as a way to tap into the past and understand why I felt the need to do that."
Macias says his work, largely in 2D drawing and painting, has allowed him to explore the current social-political climate as well as the consequences of assimilation, which he says "can be seen as an erasure of history, heritage and culture."
Macias is currently displaying his work in three exhibits in Texas celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Those exhibits are "Sacred Americanx" at the Rockport Center for the Arts, "ELA 25: Intersección: Choque & Alivio/ Intersection: Shock & Relief Exhibition" at the Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin, and "Between Two Worlds" at the University of Texas at Austin Visual Arts Center.
His work also is featured in the UArizona Museum of Art's ""Picturing 2020: A Community Reflects" virtual exhibition, online through March 28.
As he grows as an artist, Macias's Mexican-American identity continues to drive his work. Much of his art showcases the figure, or representations of the human form with different interpretations from the artist. Macias says a focus on the figure allows him to get more in touch with the humanity of himself and others.
"I use the work as a way to connect to other people," Macias says. "Not only am I connecting externally, but I'm understanding myself more internally. If I didn't make the work to begin with, I'd still be lost. I wouldn't even be aware of the assimilation process."
Macias says he hopes his work can help encourage his students to communicate parts of their own identities through their art, which he says is a crucial supplement to raw artistic talent.
"I think it's one thing to be able to draw something realistic, but that's only one tool," Macias says. "When you start to tie that into the concepts and ideas that you have, and they're sincere and true, then you can make a really good work of art that can resonate with a lot of viewers."
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