I’m a Chicano Artist living in San Francisco, California. I’m a long time cultural worker, art teacher and social activist/poster maker and print maker.
Both my parents were born in Texas and migrated first to New Mexico, where I was born then later migrated to California in 1952. I grew up in the farm labor camps of Monterey County in California, picking fruits and vegetables along with my parents and eleven brothers and sisters. Neither parent was able to attend school growing up, and we relied on each other to survive the hardships of being poor and working in the fields.
My art and social activism stems from my strong conviction that art is needed to make social change a possibility, to help heal the injustice’s faced by people of color around the world. I have the historical experience of the Civil Rights Movement and the Chicano, Black Power Movement, Native American and Anti- War Movements of the 1960s and 70s for my inspiration.
I work from photographs, news clips, my own drawings and family photos. I like to reassemble/change, and redraw sometimes directly onto the block of wood or linoleum before I begin to carve. The act of carving allows me to use the cutting tools as pencil, to more thoroughly explore the materials and feelings that I’m trying to convey. Once I have developed my ideas through drawing and carving, selection of color and printing become essential parts of the process. My goal has always been to portray our people in a very positive, beautiful and dignified manner in contrast to the continual negative portrayal of us in the media.
Juan R. Fuentes
Born: Artesia, New Mexico 1950
As a cultural activist/artist/ printmaker, I have dedicated my art to supporting and being part of a global movement for social change. My works have addressed many issues as it relates to local communities of color, social justice, and international struggles for liberation.
The turbulent times of the 70’s set the tone for my creative approach to creating a social art. The Chicano, (United Farm workers Union) African American, Middle East, Asian and Native American struggles for equality, peace and justice helped shape a consistent theme for my art. My development and introduction to silkscreen printing by mentors and Chicano artist, Rupert Garcia and Malaquias Montoya, guided my subsequent community and political poster involvement.
In 1997, I produced my first linocut after many years as primarily a poster maker while teaching art in the San Francisco County Jail’s Arts Program. My approach and influence with regards to the relief printing process has been the social realist tradition of Latin American artists, (Jose Guadalupe Posada, Leopoldo Mendez, American artist Elizabeth Catlett and Canadian artist Leonard Hutchinson, to name a few.
My focus has continued to be the figure or portrait as a means to tell a story, elaborating on the human condition. My relief work has included two series, one of mother and child. The theme was a synthesis of basic and primal elements of sustenance, survival and strength reflected by the bond between mother and child. The second series was of people carrying objects, or in the process of work. This carrying of things has been a metaphor for the heavy load on one’s shoulder through experiences of living. I have been an artist and cultural activist in the San Francisco community for over thirty years and a mentor to many young emerging artists. My early poster art is now part of the historical Chicano Poster Movement.
In 2007, after 10 years as Director of Mission Grafica at Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, I resigned and created Pajaro Editions, a printmaking studio. Pajaro Editions participated in the “Art of Democracy”, a national coalition of artists exhibiting works exposing the dire state of American politics in the fall of 2008. Several posters were created in the studio. In 2009, Pajaro Editions collaborated with 8 artists to create a portfolio of silkscreen prints that were exhibited in Cuzco Peru. Pajaro Editions is part of Consejo Grafico, a larger collective of Chicano/Latino printmakers from around the country. Key goals include the promotion of printmaking traditions and work to sustain existing Chicano/Latino Talleres nationally. The group meets annually and our work has included the development of images for AIDS awareness and obesity in the Latino community. We are currently producing posters on the theme of immigration. In addition, I am a founding member of Art 94124 Gallery in San Francisco’s Bayview District and teach a relief printmaking class as visiting faculty at the San Francisco Art Institute.
Juan R. Fuentes