Art is something that needs to be done with conviction. From bringing to light the problems that face society to creating a window to the past, artists around the world use their chosen medium to incite change or reflect what they see.
For Santa Clara-based artist Elizabeth Jiménez Montelongo, social issues like immigration and tapping into her heritage are topics that encompass her latest body of work, “Our New Sun,” which features indigenous Mexican dancers. “It represents part of my ancestry with indigenous Mexicans and what they went through during the Conquest,” said Montelongo. “There was a lot of violence and they tried to repress their culture. So they would – at the risk of having limbs chopped off – still do their dances and try to do them in hidden places like up in the mountains…It’s really important to me because it shows that they didn’t give up their culture.”
The work in “Our New Sun” also allowed Montelongo to explore using a palette knife in place of a brush. In doing so, she felt she was better able to capture the movement, looseness, and energy of the dance. She was so pleased with the outcome of the paintings that she intends to further explore the style in future pieces.
“I have plans to develop it more into work that has this theme and energy, but also has more of the theme that relates to current events that affect me now, because this is something – a style that I could paint forever – but I want to develop it,” she said. “I have all these thoughts that I put into my other work, and I want to put them into this work because I feel like they have a strong impact.”
While many may see her pieces as brightly colored recreations of caramel-skinned dancers, Montelongo believes there is a message that comes through. “I want it to have for people this idea of unity – people coming together to keep their culture and people working together to keep something else from disappearing altogether,” she said. “Just that community spirit, that unity, and also the strength of mind that they had to keep their culture…just having that determination to keep those values and thoughts and not have them get changed or stamped out.
“I want to show [my art] in a way that people will think about it,” Montelongo continued, “even if they don’t agree with me in the end or [I want them to] see things from our point of view…I want to be able to show people that in my work so that they will see things and think about it, or see things from another point of view and know that [these issues are] going on.”
“Our New Sun” is showing at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts through Dec. 8. Additionally, one of Montelongo’s pieces in this series, “Red Earth,” has been accepted to the Triton Museum of Art’s Statewide Painting Competition and Exhibition, which runs from Dec. 7, 2013 through Feb. 4, 2014.
Visit http://www.ejmontelongo.com/ to learn more about the artist.