José Luis Iñiguez performs his Art as Ritual



José Luis Iñiguez practices his art as a form of ritual, mysticism forgotten in his roots. With the use of found objects, ceramics and sculpture, he is able to show the world of his past and create new meaning. José has a BFA in Ceramics, Studio Art from California State University Bakersfield and a MFA in Fine Arts from California College of the Arts in San Francisco, CA.

José raised Catholic by his mother and father, a religious yet superstitious household, a world of ghosts and spirits. Though not religious himself he holds onto these believes and they become his art.

In his piece titled Inheritance. It is an assemblage of different found objects he has gathered to tell a story. 2 wooden planks lay against the wall suspended from the planks is a bag with the icon of Jesus in contemplation in Spanish written across the bag “No one likes you the way I do” and within the bag sits a plant. José would be embarrassed to carry the bag with the icon of Jesus around in public, religion has become somewhat of a taboo in his circles and our progressive culture. The planks of wood against the wall represents the cross deconstructed laying against the wall, the pieces of the church. The plant is a Rue plant, a plant in Mexican beliefs or superstitions is said to absorb bad energies or ill omens, usually put at the entrance of the house. It is a remnant of the nature worship of the indigenous people of the Mexico and has adapted itself into day to day superstitions. José tackles these contradictions, the separation of nature from church this nature that still exists parallel to the church, hidden away. The initial reaction from the audience was misguided they were not able to easily access his art. José was not breaking through.

Still I Rise

José was not being edgy enough, not taking enough risks with his art, being safe and needed to be bold. In his studio, frustrated, José took brick to a sparewindow and its frame laying against the wall. The brick shattered the glass, shocked the advisor and in that moment he had broken through. The piece titled “Still I Rise” had been created, José later on had added a Jesus night light in the center of the broken window. This became a pivotal piece for José, and broken down boundaries for him. He needed to go where he had came from, Mexico.

Immigrated at an early age and never fully understood what it is to be Mexican. He explored the markets, visited his family left back in Mexico, saw how they lived, believed, worshipped. He saw devout Christians with a deep belief in magic and superstitions. He bought amulets, charms, powders, trinkets sold by the vendor and assembled an inventory of these items it became his toolkit. The locals showed José how to perform these spells, charms and create amulets they included spells to ward of evil, bestow good luck, blessings in finding a partner. José had performed these rituals with these items as a performance piece at the Yerba Buena Gardens.The traditional blessing to find love or a significant other involved turning a small figure of St. Anthony’s, patron saint of lost items, upside down then making a deal with him to turn him right side up if the figurine would find you a soul mate. This blessing can be done many times as needed until it comes to fruition.

Still I Rise

In his piece, Petition to St. Anthony, José had molded 300 figurines of St Anthony suspended upside down with string hanging from a bedpost with a drawing of two men kissing. This petition to St Anthony was for him to find a soul mate, José still felt inexperienced in his sexuality as a gay man, he wanted to fully explore this side of him. The clay used to make the figurines of St. Anthony were all recycled clay that was rejected, José found meaning in this fact and the thought that it would go to help toward finding love. The 300 figurines were all his petitions to St. Anthony to find a lover, the bedpost itself symbolizes marriage, relationship and the drawing of the two men kissing represented his sexuality as a queer man.

These queer elements are apparent in a lot of Mexican culture. José points out some of the dresses the indigenous Mexicans wear in their rituals, the colors, the decorations all have queer elements without being perceived as queer. Using these as his inspirations he had created amulets, these amulets contained a picture of the person being blessed, filled with different objects for different purposes and decorated with these bright christmas elements. For his sister he blessed her with protection because she works in law enforcement, for his parents, abundance and protection.

José Luis Iñiguez looks forward to getting back into sculpture and incorporating it into his rituals and performance. He wants to let his art come organically, and not let his art be forced.

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