Thursday, May 05, 2005

Luis Cervantes: "All I Know Is That I'm an Artist & I'm an Indian"

Lorna dice: Don't believe everything you read in the newspapers. He would not want to be remembered as a muralist, although he painted murals, and though he was the other eye in the co-founding of Precita Eyes Muralists, he considered Susan to be the Master Muralist. He was a fine arts artist, and probably one of the first postmodern artists, having come to it under siege in Antwerp, and in the sense that his art by it's very nature resists classifications, hierarchies & hegemonies. He would have spoken up, right away, interrupted the speaker had she or he called him a "Chicano" artist. "Call it what it is," as he put it the last time I spoke with him, "I'm Mexican and I'm an American (a certified WWII war hero) so I guess that makes me a 'Mexican American', and that other guy over there, well, you'll just have to ask him where he comes from and where he's at." (hearty laughter) "Yeah." That's pretty Chicano, if you ask me. And since I'm telling, if he wasn't a Chicano artist, in our original self-defining sense of the term, then I would say he was "pert'near" as my maternal gramma always put it. But then, she was pretty postmodern herself, and possibly, the original Chicana post-flapper.

I remember our long debates of the late 70s, not 'identity politics' discussions but a creative act by the Creative Class; he said: "I've been called a hepster, a hepcat, a cool cat, hip, hep & hipster, a Beatnik, a Beat & a Beatster, a hippie, a (dippie?), a chippie...what they call it keeps changing but the thing remains the same. All I know is that I'm an Artist and I'm an Indian."

I'd say, "So I guess that makes you an Indian Artist?" But the worth of his art would skyscraper, and the Federal Government might have something to say about that designation since they seem to hold the registered trademark on the brand. So I'll keep it to myself.

The other day, while walking to my deposit, I thought of the absence his arms make—the ghost pain of their missing abrazos ('hugs' does not translate in this particular case) which was the first thing I thought of when seeing Susan for the time after his passing: Who can give her that Master Hug so many times of day & We will all have to practice daily, as he did lifting barbells until 100 pounds didn't lever his outstretched hand. (I'm sorry Susan, it will make you cry to read this as I well to write it: but it is a healing tearing, like a good poem pouncing on the truth.) "My father was an 'abrazo artist' and he was a Master." And I teared & walked & laughed, simultaneously & syncretic, all the way to the banks saying: "Luís Cervantes, Abrazo Artist."



Blogger GJPW said...


I like reading your blog. This reminds me of a line from César Vallejo I've always loved:

"Indio antes del hombre y después de el."

(I'm quoting from memory so this could be off. I think it's from his Paris poems.)

--Guillermo Parra

6/5/05 12:38  
Blogger GJPW said...

"¡Indio después del hombre y antes de él!"

("Telúrica y magnética")

6/5/05 14:25  

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