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Jul. 16—For decades, artist Tony Ortega has sparked conversations about the Mexican-American experience with this vibrant work that brings up themes of immigration, assimilation, cultural hybridity and more.
On July 24, 15 of the Denver-based creative's pieces will be displayed at Loveland Museum's Green Room Gallery for his solo exhibition "Magia Chicana."
"This means Chicano art magic," Ortega said. "I believe art is similar to magic. They both include the element of illusion and surprise."
While admission into the gallery is free, all works on display are available for purchase.
"There is a variety of mediums in the exhibition, from hand-colored etchings, lithographs, silkscreens, paintings and paper mâché sculptures," Ortega said.
Rich with color, some works give viewers a glimpse into the traditions of the Hispanic community — while others provide much clever layering.
In "Wonder Woman — Frida," viewers see the iconic Mexican painter decked out in a cape and golden cuffs.
"I had created a male Chicano super hero and I needed a female Chicana female hero," Ortega said.
Detailed, with nods to pop-art, this piece blends a slightly playful essence with feminism and a comic-book edge.
In "Campbell's Menudo Orange," he mixes the concept of Warhol's Campbell's soup silkscreens with a traditional Mexican dish. By infusing iconic American art works and such recognizable logos into his work — such as a Mickey Mouse figure in sugar skull face — he artfully ignites dialogue about visibility.
"As a Chicano artist, my identity, cultural traditions and geographic background inform my art," Ortega said. "I live between the clash of two cultures — one Mexican and American. By merging iconic Mexican and American iconography in my art, I show that my journey is not unique."
While some of his work in the varied collection will bring about a smile, others encourage thoughtful reflection about equality and politics.
"El Grito de Guadalupe" is a bold piece inspired by Edvard Munch's "The Scream." A horrified Lady of Guadalupe looks out onto a paper mâché baby sculpture that rests in a cage filled with hay. The confined Christ-like child and painting is a response to the topic of children being separated from their parents at the border.
"With creating art, I can address the differences in my world, forming a new and more accurate outlook of my personal and cultural identity," Ortega said.
In 1998, Ortega took home the Mayor's Award for Excellence in the Arts. He received the coveted Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts the following year.
"Often, I combine contemporary issues with art historical references," Ortega said. "In my print 'Mexican Gothic,' I place two well-known Mexican artists and activists, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, in a Grant Wood painting. With this image, I hope to show that Mexican-Americans/mestizos that our presence in the United States has a long history, even longer that the existence of the United States as a nation."
Ortega remains inspired, clocking hours in his studio and working on new work.
"I have been creating some new monotypes with similar icons and symbols, but the color is less saturated and more transparent," Ortega said. "A horizon line is not established in the composition."
He received his Master of Fine Arts degree in drawing and painting from the University of Colorado and is currently a professor at Regis University in Denver.
"I'm looking forward to teaching face-to-face at Regis and getting out of the studio more," Ortega said.
While the exhibition opens July 24 and runs through Nov. 13, a reception will take place August 13, from 6-8 p.m., during Night on the Town. Ortega is planning to attend.
In addition to this varied collection, Loveland Museum has many other offerings to take in.
"'Gadgets Galore' is a history exhibit in our Dunning Gallery that features gadgets throughout history and there is a scavenger hunt in the gallery for kids," said Mikayla Adair, marketing coordinator for Loveland Museum. "We also have our 'Speaking to Water' exhibit which features the work of Sharon Carlisle and the World Wide Water Project, featuring how water has memory and a celebration of it. We asked the community to do their own paper soakings and will also display those starting Aug. 3."
Also on display are three encaustic art exhibits that feature the medium of hot, pigmented wax.