Glad to be writing to you again after quite the hiatus, my sincerest apologies for that in case you've been missing my rambles on the blog. So what's been going on? Well, a few things are different these days. I'm gearing up for my last year of a three year MFA program at Michigan State University. Which means I have a thesis to write and a capstone body of work to develop and produce. If you want to make it out to see this work take note it should be exhibited during the months of March, April, and May of 2020 at the Eli and Edyth Broad Art Museum.
The work I've made as a graduate student has certainly surprised some of my faculty members and graduate peers. I began working mostly with oil paints and monotype prints. Then I ventured back into my ceramic roots to take a stab at small modeling of beer cans and bottles, teeth, and a shovel. I began looking at the work of the Bay Area figure painters like Diebenkorn and Nathan Oliveira. Who's work led to me try sculpting with plaster and found objects. At the start of my second year I comprised a solo show of mostly found and manipulated objects loaded with connotations of the Midwest American household. These objects also sat in the gallery with objects of stereotypical Mexican objects like a sombrero. I continued my second year outside of painting and experimented with performance as a way to activate images and objects I had made. You can see those works in the Performance gallery on my website. Throughout my first two years of the program the content was localizing itself around the conversation of Mexican-American Identity in relation to Paternal Incarceration. For those who don't know, I grew up without my father Hector Acuna Sr. who's been incarcerated since I was four years old. My Mexican heritage derives from his family who live mostly in Matamoros, Mexico a border city just south of Brownsville, TX.
Obviously Matamoros is very far from Kenosha, Wisconsin where I was raised. My relationship to my father and his family has always been minimal, but never irrelevant. Especially in today's heightened political environment between the US and Mexico. The "authentic" Mexican piece of my identity has been an important topic I think often about, and sometimes am confronted with by strangers. In many ways I've lived a distant life from my blood roots of Mexico and internally feel the same. However, the issues of identity I've struggled with the most begin with confrontations towards my exterior self and what others see.
The work I'm making right now stretches from purely fiction to historically inspired narratives. All of which revolve around the perspectives I have. As a student it's been a challenge trying to pin down what it is I'm trying to create exactly. In studio visits this is always one of the first questions. I usually fumble through stories about my family and Wisconsin, incarceration, farming, addiction, immigration, racism, and so forth. But there often seems to be disconnect between what I'm saying and what the work looks like.
Painting has always allowed me to explore an image and how it can distort and layer upon itself to make something different. In my undergraduate studies I learned how to see what I wanted to make and recreate it with a readable sense of accuracy. After graduating my paintings began to feel more muddy and obscure which I'm still unsure about. And now I'm currently working on a canvas that's nearly 4' x 5' that captures a bunch of representational moments in one scene sort of like a Bruegel painting. Earlier this summer I collaborated on a mural in East Lansing with seven other artists and we worked together to develop a dense and engaging design for a large space. Since then I feel like I've just wanted to overload my images with numerous focal points and transitions. The painting I have in progress repeats versions of red, white, and blue as a motif against figures of changing scale that are performing varies actions some with objects in hand. All of this taking place in some grassy field somewhere. I'm hesitant to define what this painting is supposed to be about, but I also feel the painting is explicit in it's information and maybe it's more interesting to let the viewer make associations and meaning from each distinct part.
In a week the painting will need to be installed at Kresge Art Center for a gallery exhibit of the graduate student cohort. I'm looking forward to the exhibition, but more so to meet six new graduate candidates that are reenergizing our program after a year without grads.
I suppose this is enough of a stream of consciousness for now. Hopefully I'll be writing again in a few days. Maybe to follow up on this painting in progress with photos too. Thanks to everyone who takes the time to follow my work online and to you extra special people who read these posts. It means a lot to me.