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Latino culture class influences senior’s art

Arts Apr 2, 2021
Two men in masks stand by a building
Two men in masks stand by a building

KOKOMO, Ind. — After moving to Logansport from California as a toddler, Adrian Gazcon grew up feeling distanced from his family’s Latino roots.

He rediscovered his heritage, and combined it with his love of art, while earning his degree in New Media, Art, and Technology (NMAT) at Indiana University Kokomo.

“I always wanted to learn more about my culture,” he said. “I come from a family of immigrants, and that inspires me. You can see that through my artwork. A lot of my art is about self-identity, and heritage, and culture.”

Gazcon doesn’t remember a time he didn’t have a drawing pen in hand.

“Instead of playing outside, I was in my room drawing,” he said. “I had a passion for drawing, and I just pursued it.”

During one summer session, he enrolled in a Latino culture class with J.R. Pico, senior lecturer in Spanish, to earn credits towards a Spanish minor and found new inspiration for his work.

“It sparked my fascination about wanting to learn more about the Latino culture,” he said. “Professor Pico really knows how to teach, and he inspired me to want to learn more. I didn’t expect to dig deeper into what he was teaching us.”

After learning in class about the history and cultures of what is currently Mexico and Central America, including the Maya and Aztec empires and the arrival of the Spanish colonizers, Gazcon knew he had to research more on his own.

What he learned began influencing his own artwork — including the work he’s currently creating for the annual senior thesis exhibition, which runs from May 13 to May 28 in the IU Kokomo Downtown Art Gallery.

Using three 4-foot by 4-foot wood panels, he’s created a series of related intricately detailed ink drawings that include imagery of the moon and its phases, and sunstones, tying into elements of Aztec mythology.

He’s also painted images of a jaguar and of a Xoloitzcuintli, or Mexican hairless dog, both of which were important in Aztec culture — but in a style more like Picasso than traditional Latino artists.

“I’m reaching all the way through back to the roots of it all, and bringing it back, and putting it onto a canvas, making art from the inspiration of my culture,” Gazcon said. “It’s like ancient art, but with a modern twist.”

Pico is proud of Gazcon’s application of what he learned to his artwork, and that he took initiative to learn more on his own.

“It was important for me to reassure my students about the validity and pride to be a Latino, and to preserve our own roots through different generations,” he said. “Adrian will use both his very improved Spanish skills and his ability to portray his heritage through his artwork in his professional future.”

In addition to his culture, Gazcon’s work also has been influenced by what he’s learned in his NMAT classes, along with visits with working artists and in galleries in New York City, as part of the Kokomo Experience and You (KEY) program.

“I feel like I’ve learned what art means, and what it means to be an artist,” Gazcon said. “I feel like I’ve evolved in these four years. I saw so much artwork in New York, and went to so many galleries. I had never been to a big city like that before. I got the full experience of art there.”

He looks forward to seeing his work exhibited in the Downtown Art Gallery — and especially of having his family see it there.

“I get to experience for real how artists put work in galleries, and see that I can do it too,” he said. “My parents are also going to see it, and it’s going to be so cool. It’s different, because I am the first in my family to go to college, and the first artist. This is what I am passionate about. They support me in the decisions I make, and I’m thankful for that.”

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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