Prior to the pandemic, much of J. Leigh Garcia’s work was more political in nature, focusing heavily on the subject of undocumented Latinx immigrants to Texas, the state where the artist was born and raised.
In recent months, however, Garcia’s work has taken an inward turn, increasingly focused on her biracial identity (the artist is a seventh generation Texan of European descent from her mother’s side and the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants on her father’s side) and her own family history with immigration.
“During the pandemic, my sister came to live with my husband and I, and she’s been living with us on and off for about a year and a half,” Garcia said by phone from her home in Kent, Ohio, where she works. Kent State University as Assistant Professor of Print Media and Photography. “We’re both biracial in the same way, and having her with her, a lot of our conversations have focused on our biracial development. Having him in Ohio with me kind of changed my mindset, with the pandemic and not being as engaged in activism as I was. [prior]. “
These two sides of the artist are currently on display in an exhibition at Roy G Biv in Franklinton, with earlier, more politically charged works resting alongside more personal and introspective turns. In a series of three stark black-and-white prints, for example, Garcia combats aspects of cultural appropriation and racism, featuring images of white men in ‘build the wall’ t-shirts eating from a truck. tacos and distraught students Cinco de Mayo revelers swelled at the bar while dressed in traditional Mexican clothing.
These set aside the divided image of “Where Loyalties Lie”, a self-portrait of the artist in which she is flanked on one side by figures representing her Mexican heritage and on the other by those representing her European roots.
“I feel very connected to that [immigrant] community, because my grandparents were undocumented immigrants. But I also try to be at the forefront in my work, because I am privileged, I am a citizen of this country and I am half white, and because of that I had the possibility that my 100% Latinx, Mexican family members didn’t do it, ”said Garcia, whose work is on display at Roy G Biv alongside pieces by Mona Gazala, Shanna Merola, Rachel Linnemann and Josie Love Roeb in an exhibition which should end on Saturday July 3. a lot of biracial individuals, we go through this pendulum of development. There was a time in my life when I really identified with my white Texan family, and I loved country music and wore cowboy boots. Then, when I left Texas to go to college, I identified more with my Mexican side. Now I’m at an age where I’m finding common ground which is good for my mental health I think.
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Garcia, who grew up in a Dallas musical house (her parents were both longtime conductors), first developed a passion for printmaking while attending high school specializing in the arts, drawn to the sculptural nature of the form and how it was often used to solve larger societal problems. “The political nature of printmaking was really exciting to me,” said Garcia, detailing the high school-era assignments in which she created works intended to address topics such as the “Free Tibet” movement, among others. “Most of our assignments have focused on printmaking through this lens of social justice.”
More recently, Garcia has fallen in love with screen printing, a form that allows her to introduce a myriad of colors, a development that reflects the growing complexity of the subjects explored by these identity works. The artist described these ongoing developments as part of a process of finding his own voice as an artist, which involved early study and mimicry of Latinx masters (Jose Posada, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo) and has since branched out into more personal and inventive ones. explorations.
“I integrated these [influences] at first, but over time I found my own style as an artist, ”Garcia said. “I did a lot of realistic prints in high school and in those early stages of printmaking, but when I discovered screen printing my images changed a lot and they went from a very bold and heavy character to a question. color and the constitution of transparent ink layers.
Transparencies which, over time, have gradually revealed more about the artist.