C

esar Piedra and Geovany Uranda are the curators of Hija/e/o/x(s) de Su—, which showed at the Holland Project in Reno this past summer and is now showing at Nuwu Art Gallery in Las Vegas. They’re also both involved with Scrambled Eggs Gallery, the artist-run exhibition collective that started in downtown Las Vegas in 2022. With both projects, they want to make the arts more accessible to wider audiences.

In their own artwork, Piedra, based in Reno, and Uranda, who lives in Las Vegas, address familial influences on their senses of self and on how they belong to their respective communities. Hija/e/o/x(s) de Su— highlights 16 artists whose work explores similar themes.

“Honrarás a tu madre y a tu padre, y a la sour cream, y la cerveza,” by Adriana Chavez. Photo: Erika Gisela Abad

The show reminds me of Justin Favela and Jay Lin Gomez’s 2019 show Sorry for the Mess at the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art, which started a now-robust lineage of local exhibitions featuring artists of color who explore their families’ contributions to the community and what it means to be bicultural in Las Vegas.

While Favela’s work does not appear in Hija/e/o/x(s) de Su—, his influence does, as the artists who’ve followed him produce works using similar tools, materials, mediums, and concepts.

Kristy Moreno’s “Poderosx” with one of Geovany Uranda’s “Autoretrato” sculptures reflected in a mirror. Photo: Erika Gisela Abad

The very organization of the show—altars are positioned to frame other works— suggests a multi-generational dialog regarding what immigrant communities carry and inherit and what children of immigrants carry in between worlds. The installation engages in themes of immigrant lived realities, gender performance, and familial history.

Adriana Chavez’s altar “Honrarás a tu madre y a tu padre, y a la sour cream, y la cerveza,” adorned with balloons and plastic Day of the Dead decor, plays with the transience of being undervalued while featuring beverages, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, in conversation with the altar space.

Kristy Moreno’s “Poderosx” sculpture highlights a different sense of in-betweenness by challenging gender norms. Their work features a mirror, which, if you stand and lean at the right angle, reflects Uranda’s “Autoretrato” sculptures. While the instability of LGBTQ+ rights around the world has many of us leaving home seeking more inclusive communities, artists like Moreno and Uranda exchange playful gazes with the audience and with each other regarding these expectations. 

Emmanuel Muñoz’s sculpture “Rubén, Beto, Peluchín, El Tío y El Compadre,” repurposes his father’s tools and screws to narrate a story of hard work and success. Photo: Alisha Funkhouser

Emmanuel Muñoz’s sculpture “Rubén, Beto, Peluchín, El Tío y El Compadre,” repurposes his father’s tools and screws to narrate a story of hard work and success. Like Chavez, Muñoz reimagines his relationship with what he inherits. Like Favela before him, who once collaborated with his grandmother on a piece, Muñoz involved his father. He collected tools, odds, and ends his father had saved over the years, rearranging them to rewrite their meaning and pay homage to his father’s habit of collecting valuables to show how his life improved. In this way, Muñoz’s work complements the nostalgia and yearning Chavez’s altar evokes. Both rewrite and reimagine that which so many immigrants and children of immigrants feel called to leave behind. Sometimes, in leaving home behind, we rewrite what it means to un-belong in a country that demands our work but undervalues our contributions. 

Against Chavez’s and Muñoz’s particular approaches to honoring family, Piedra’s altar engages with vulnerability and recovery. As someone who saw family members numb their pain with alcohol, Piedra’s altar provides a glimpse of his and his father’s work toward recovery and healing together. He said that when he was younger, his father would bring him to AA meetings. While it was difficult for him to hear the stories told in those meetings, he now believes that naming our hurt and seeking communal healing spaces—whether they’re AA meetings or grassroots art shows—are the best steps forward.

Cesar Piedra’s ceramic Modelo bottles are part of an altar that speaks of alcohol dependency and healing. Photo: Alisha Funkhouser

During my visit to the show’s installation at Nuwu Art Gallery, I had more time to process the bicultural tensions the show brings up. As the youngest child of my Puerto Rican mom and Dominican dad, both of whom immigrated to Chicago, I can relate to the questions and concerns that so many of these artists put on cardboard, in lunchboxes, clay, and photographs. The years I worked with immigrant communities outside of Chicago and in Portland, Oregon, shaped how I engage with what the curators of Hija/e/o/x(s) de Su— want their viewers to consider. Like the women I worked with at a Catholic Church in Portland, these artists collectively communicate that we are each other’s best resource. In sculpting, painting, and drawing parts of their stories, the artists in this show hold up a mirror up to the growing majority that continues to shape what it looks like to try to make a home on stolen land or what is now called the Americas.

The dialogs this show engages in convey the notion that Latinx culture remains fluid. We pull from what we inherit from our families’ communities of origin and what we adopt from the communities we create wherever we land. 

These ongoing conversations, which balance immigrant dreaming with our economic needs, remind me of my own process of making the Vegas Valley home. As I continue to learn how to adapt my child-of-immigrant experiences and lessons to working with people here, time has done little to divide us. I strongly recommend visiting Nuwu Art Gallery to see Hija/e/o/x(s) de Su—. Uranda, Piedra, and their collaborators have a great deal to teach us, and, as I’ve learned in my years following so many Vegas artists of color, the best lessons don’t always require words.

Hija/e/o/x(s) de Su is on view at Nuwu Art Gallery in Las Vegas through Dec. 7. A a closing reception is scheduled for 6-9pm Dec. 7 with an artist talk at 6 pm.

This article was funded by a generous grant from the Nevada Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Posted by Erika Gisela Abad

Erika Gisela Abad has been an Assistant Professor of Communications at Nevada State University since fall 2022. Prior to that, they were Faculty-in-Residence for UNLV's Interdisciplinary, Gender and Ethnic Studies. They have written art review for Intervenxions, Latinx Spaces, Dry Heat, and Settlers & Nomads (now Couch in the Desert).