Enrique Chagoya

“The same thing happens with visual art. We kind of whistle our art work, and we don’t know whether it’s going to be all right or whether we’re going to end up with a disaster. Sometimes you get a good idea right away and score a home run, and sometimes you have to keep changing it until you feel happy with it. We never know what’s going to happen ­ and that’s the exciting part of it.”

In recent years, Chagoya has found a new sense of identity as a result of his own experience as an immigrant. He moved to the United States because his wife, from whom he is now divorced, had become seriously ill in Mexico. In the intervening 17 years, as anti-immigration sentiment has grown in the United States, he has come to believe that the immigrant experience is “probably attached to everybody.”

Chagoya art “Immigration is not a change of residency or a change on the map,” he says. “Immigration is an inner experience, almost a spiritual experience. You travel inside and you change inside, according to the kinds of experiences you have. And at a time in history in which masses of people in the world are moving, I think everybody is some kind of immigrant who has left something behind very dear to that person.”

As a result of feeling not quite at home in either his homeland or his adopted country, Chagoya says the immigrant artist develops an intuitive sense that impels creativity. “In a way, you have a distance from reality, which gives you a good critical eye for your own culture, as well as the local culture.”

“For me, it’s very important to understand the relationship between art and society,” he adds. “I get a lot of insight from understanding the social conditions in which art is created.”

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JAN/FEB 1997

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