Latin American art finds ‘Sense of Place’

Catalina Diaz
Staff Writer

Tucked away in the Pomona Arts Colony sits the dA Center for the Arts which is currently showcasing “Aztlan: A Sense of Place,” another establishment of the Latin American and Latino Art exploration, “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA.”

Visitors are greeted by large murals with bold colors and textures that fill the first floor of the 12,000 sq. foot Center.

“It really is a sense of place,” said the dA Center’s administrative assistant, Naomi Morphin.

She said a piece by Los Angeles artist David Botello called “Space Dreams” reminded her of her years of growing up.

Morphin added that she saw many of his murals around Los Angeles, where she was raised.

“Space Dreams” is a 36” x 24” acrylic on canvas mural that Botello crafted in 1992.

Pieces by late renowned Chicano artist Gilbert “Magu” Luján are known to involve cars that express an older and traditional Latin American style, twisted with newer designs, which brings both the old and new generations together.

“The artists give people a sense of place and reminders of their lives and pasts,” Morphin said.

This cohesion of tradition can be seen in other pieces like the water painting on glass, “Selena,” that portrays the late Chicana singer’s smile and grace.

Other pieces communicate more current and relevant situations that many Latin Americans have knowledge of, one way or another.

An acrylic on canvas by Jaime Zacarias named “VIVA DACA” displays an alien-like subject, with soft eyes that peer through a Luchador mask that covers its face.

“These are things you see around your home” freshman psychology major Jennifer Estrada said.

Estrada was visiting the exhibit with her friend Eilenne Figueroa because of a class assignment to tour places that displayed Latin American art and culture.

“We’re used to it because we grew up with it,” Estrada said when referring to the murals that she has seen mimicked around her hometown of Pomona.

Both Estrada and Figueroa were taken aback by many of the paintings that surrounded the Center.

“I paint, and would like to learn how to paint on canvas,” Figueroa said.

She added that she appreciated the murals that were in the style that she hopes to incorporate in her own pieces.

The dA is going on its 15th year of housing and showing “Aztlan: A Sense of Place.”

“Interpretations of the term “Aztlan” varies,” said artist and dA volunteer Jason LaMotte.

LaMotte said that some suspect that “Aztlan” is a geographical place, possibly in the Southern California region or southern Arizona.

She said for others it is more widely thought to be a fabled land that people refer to when describing an idealized place of their past.

Although definitions differ from person to person, Aztlan is also a message for hope, said LaMotte.

In a smaller room toward the rear of the space, a wall with the phrase “Western Hemisphericals” invokes an idea that Latin Americans from Southern California cannot be classified because they are apart of hybrid identities that make them unique.

“I think that this is a way of questioning labels and keeping it open ended,” said LaMotte.

He added that he thinks this holds true to the definition of what “Aztlan” embodies.

The history of the dA Center is a story filled with passion and determination.

The Center was conceptualized and created during the late 1970s by four local artists that wanted to establish a home for fellow artists to display their work and give the community a place of its own.

“It speaks to the ongoing search to make this place home to everyone, or whoever comes here,” said LaMotte.

“Aztlan: A Sense of Place” will be on display at the dA Center for the Arts through Jan. 28, 2018.

Catalina Diaz can be reached at

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