• additional view of artwork by Mark Vallen
  • additional view of artwork by Mark Vallen

Welcome to Aztlán


United States

Drawing
Size: 26 H x 23 W x 0.3 in

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Art Description

Drawing: Pencil on Paper.

"Welcome to Aztlán" is a social realist drawing of a worker on the streets of Los Angeles. The approach is unromanticized but poignant. Such men are seen in many U.S. cities, but my subject is a very common sight in the City of Angels.

My portrait drawing was first exhibited in September 2015 at the "Works on Paper: Annual National Juried Exhibition" presented by the Brand Library & Art Center in Glendale, California. The work was presented with a "Best of Show" award by the Brand.

"Welcome to Aztlán" poses the question of identity; is the man depicted an Angelino by birth or is he a Mexican immigrant? Some might think he represents the city's notorious Chicano gang culture, or the army of Mexican gardeners who tend the green spaces in the city. He might even be a Mexican American protester for a social cause. The palm fronds in the background allude to the Catholic traditions that so many Latinos in L.A. embrace. So who is this man?"

Aztlán was the mythical homeland of the Aztecs, who migrated southward until they reached the valley of Mexico. Some say Aztlán was what we now call the southwest of the United States. The strongest evidence of this is the Uto-Aztecan language spoken by indigenous people in the American southwest. Linguists generally believe that Uto-Aztecan speakers migrated to Mesoamerica thousands of years ago, where the language took root. Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, is part of the Uto-Aztecan language family. In Nahuatl "Aztlán" means "The place of the white heron." That is something I always think of when I see a white heron flying over one of L.A.'s waterways.

I can't say how many times I have seen brown persons waiting at a bus stop, pushing a baby buggy, or using a leaf blower, and thought they looked like urban Aztecs. Welcome to Aztlán.

Keywords: pencil, political, portrait, black & white, Social Realism, drawing

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