We’ll talk to Annie Lopez, recipient of the Contemporary Forum Mid-Career Artist Award, about the award and her series of works on display at the Phoenix Art Museum.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: In SOC, "Sounds of Cultura," artist Annie Lopez is the recipient of the Contemporary Forms Artists Award. The organization awards the grant for a body of work in a solo display at the museum. She incorporates letters, sketches other personal items related to her life and family. We will put on the screen part of this particular exhibition. We gave hint in the introduction as to how this came to be. But it was very personal experience that led to this.
Annie Lopez: It was. I was -- it was the trauma of taking care of my father as he was dying from Alzheimer's, dementia. I had received text messages from a family member that bothered me. But I kept them, I kept them as kind of a memento of what I was going through. I had told the contemporary curator, Sara Cochran at the museum that I'd like to sew my burdens into a dress. She said do it.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: You were just expressing your emotions at the time.
Annie Lopez: I was throwing out ideas, this is what I'm going do for my show. I had thrown out other ideas, pretty much along the lines of what I had done before.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: About 10 dresses or so that are part of the exhibition?
Annie Lopez: There are 14 pieces all together, each tells a different story.
Annie Lopez: One is covered in my father's handwriting as he was -- and we were losing him in the final years of his life, he had dementia and he really didn't know where he was at. He thought he would still at work and I would slip paper under his hand and say, write out an invoice and he will write things. He actually wrote one that looks like my name, it says ANNIe, there's also little sketches. Kids he used to draw for us all the time. I could never draw, my father could draw. He would entertain us with his drawings of Cowboys and cars he would do. That was one of the dresses. Another dress is covered in letters that my aunt, my dad's sister and her best friend used to write back and forth to each other in the 1940s. They lived a mile apart in Phoenix and they were teenagers. They communicated by mail. They would write letters back and forth to each other. When my aunt died I found them in her house. They were so full of my family's history.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: And each of the dresses has a title.
Annie Lopez: Yes.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: It gives you a sense for what people are going see when they study the item more closely.
Annie Lopez: It tells what you each dress is about.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: Give some more examples. I know some of them relate to other aspects of your life, your own personal experiences tend to be the subject of a lot of your art.
Annie Lopez: They are. One of is called fail relationship, and actually they are breakup letters from an old boyfriend. As an artist I don't throw anything away. I've been married for 27 years. It's a very, very old breakup letter. Another one is covered in medical conditions, that I was thinking about as my father was being sick. One is covered in report cards. I was a C student in art when I was in elementary school, and I thought that was good with a toy get back at those old teachers who thought I was a C student in art. Another one has a fire report, my family's business was burned down and there was no investigation. So rather than think about that, I sewed it into the dress.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: And any qualm busy putting so much of yourself, your personal life, your experiences, out on public display like that?
Annie Lopez: Sometimes. Sometimes. But I would rather express what I have to express than hold it in. It's just not worth hanging on to some of these things. I've always enjoyed the luxury. I've been an artist for 31 years, an exhibiting artist. And I'm really happy that I have this outlet, that I'm table put these problems, issues, burdens into my artwork and I don't have to carry them around with me. I felt like I could put them in the art piece and hang it on the wall and I'm done with it.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: Some of the other pieces you've done over the years that are also expressions of experiences. I should note first the current exhibition runs through the end of June.
Annie Lopez: Yes, June 30th.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: People should make it a point to get there soon. Some other pictures on the screen, these have to do in many ways with your identity or people's presumptions regarding your identity given your Mexican ancestry. We've got this one, it's a family picture as I understand it?
Annie Lopez: Yes, it is.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: The stuff on the right conclusion looks at least at first like gibberrish is from a book about how Spanish speakers should speak English phonetically.
Annie Lopez: You have to learn to read phonetically in order to decipher it, which I enjoy. I have been pigeonholed my entire art career because of my last name and skin color. They assume Chicano artist, and that's it. That I would work in a particular way, that my art would be a particular subject matter. I do a lot about family and that's what this is, it's family images and text. And these -- the series is called Spick English. It's, we need to learn to spick English.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: Not intended as a derogatory for Mexicans.
Annie Lopez: I left it in there, and this way it doesn't hurt me.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: I don't know if we we have time to put it on the screen but as I recall one of these talks about your mother not cooking traditional Mexican foods, and the other one had to do with you and your Mexican ancestry and not necessarily showing that.
Annie Lopez: Right, I've always been in disguise to certain people, they are not aware that I am Mexican. People ask knee I'm -- they will throw out things like Italian, Polynesian. They seem deflated if I'm not.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: It's all very fascinating and do I hope people get out to see the exhibition because it looks wonderful. Thank you. Thank you so much for joining us here for "Horizonte" I'm Jose Cardenas, have a good evening.
Annie Lopez:The Contemporary Forum Mid-Career Artist Award, Recipient;