From: Denver Art Museum Limited Edition: 4 Exhibition: Mi Tierra: Contemporary Artists Explore Place Material: Printed 2-ply vinyl Dimensions: 30" x 89" (76.2cm x 226.06cm) Hanging Hardware Included
Remember the Utah teen who posted her prom pics on Twitter and got way more feedback than she expected? She wore a traditional Chinese cheongsam to her prom. In response to the backlash, she said she thought the dress was beautiful and was showing appreciation for Chinese culture by wearing it. But others panned it off as cultural appropriation. Living in Las Vegas, Justin Favela knows a little about this conversation. He recommends returning those blow-up maracas to the party store the next time you think “Cinco de Drinko” party. Check out the massive piñata paper mural and garden installation he created for the Denver Art Museum’s Mi Tierra: Contemporary Artists Explore Place. He used thousands of pieces of piñata paper to get us thinking about the ways our culture perpetuates Mexican stereotypes. A colorful portion of his mural covers one of the banners used to promote the exhibition.
The Denver Art Museum selected 13 emerging Mexican-American conceptual artists to create installations for the exhibition, Mi Tierra: Contemporary Artists Explore Place. The artists each had some tie to Mexico and the American West, either as a first generation American, living part-time in both countries, or as an immigrant from one country to the other. They were charged with creating a site-specific installation on the fourth floor of the Denver Art Museum’s Hamilton Building that addressed the ideas of home and place. The results were diverse narratives about migration, displacement, labor, nostalgia, visibility, and the complex layers of culture in the American western states. They told their stories in very different ways: performance-based video, fiber constructions, mixed media, digital animation, painting, sculpture, and ceramics.
One of the banners used by the museum to promote the exhibit showed detail of Justin Favela’s Fridalandia installation described as “the world’s biggest, walk-through piñata” by the Denver Post. Favela created a huge mural, which included a three-sided landscape, based on paintings by Mexican artist José María Velasco, surrounding a life-size garden, a re-creation of Frida Kahlo’s Mexico City courtyard garden as depicted in the 2002 American film Frida. Favela used thousands of pieces of piñata paper to exaggerate and provoke dialogue about the absurdities of Mexican stereotypes. A lifelong resident of Las Vegas, Favela’s work has been influenced by the myriad of cultural appropriations so prevalent there, for example, a casino complex fashioned in the style of Venice with canals and gondola rides, but with boutique shopping and slot machines within.
A close-up of colorful strips of piñata paper from the installation fills most of the banner. The exhibition and museum name appear at the bottom in white, reversed out of orange piñata paper. This banner is identical on both sides.