Indiana is better known for the Indy 500 and sports teams than for a thriving art culture, so most art lovers would be surprised to stumble upon the cutting-edge exhibit of serigraphic prints—a contemporary art form that uses block-size ink stencils to print images onto canvas—on display this winter at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. Charles Shepard, the museum’s executive director and curator of the groundbreaking exhibit—Graphicanos: Contemporary Latino Prints from the Serie Project—likes to point out that there is a thriving art world beyond the traditional centers of New York and San Francisco. And he believes presenting often-ignored contributions of Latino artists in the American “heartland”—not usually seen as a center of Latino culture—reflects the rich diversity of U.S. society today.
“Every part of our diverse culture is making art in some form,” Shepard says. “And as a museum, we should be looking at that.” The museum hosts an annual Día de los Muertos celebration every November, which attracts about 2,000 visitors from a variety of cultural backgrounds. The event became so popular that it inspired him to collaborate with the late Sam Coronado, a Mexican-American serigraphic print artist, for the Graphicanos exhibit.
Coronado, founder of the Austin, Texasbased Serie Project, was inspired by workshops he attended at Self Help Graphics—a nonprofit Chicano community art center in Los Angeles. He founded the Serie Project in 1992 with the intention of offering a space where, he explained, “underrepresented artists could benefit from collaboration and learn the serigraphy technique.” Coronado saw silk screen prints as a uniquely historical and culturally significant medium that could highlight Mexican-American expression.
Coronado’s vision is brought to life by vivid imagery and provocative messaging. Melding political and cultural images—such as the calavera imposed over the familiar commercial image of a Sun-Maid raisin box to protest deportations—the collection offers artists a medium to express their personal interpretations of life at the intersection of Mexican and American cultures.
All photos by Joslyn Elliott, courtesy of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art and the Serie Project.