Ana Serrano:Homegrown unearths the complex ways in which Latinx (people of Latin American descent) negotiate cultural hybridity, acknowledging the persistence and survival of heritage and culture, while embracing life in the United States. A native Angeleno, artist Ana Serrano creates work that is inspired by the Latinx neighborhoods in which she grew up, highlighting the socio-cultural and architectural elements of urban life.
Homegrown presents a romanticized amalgamation of the plants and small plots of dirt scattered amidst the concrete laden communities of Los Angeles. Nopales, chili peppers, basil, rue, mint, aloe vera and roses take root in Serrano's garden, the same plants her family cultivated in Mexico and still grow at their homes in the US. These sustained elements of her Mexican heritage function as a vehicle for cultural continuity in the ever-evolving sprawl of Los Angeles.
Drawn to the fences found throughout working class immigrant neighborhoods, Serrano creates a stylized representation of the heavy brick, mortar and iron that commands authority and intimidates intruders. However, Serrano's humble icon of the single-family home is softened and enlivened by her cheerful palette of blue and soft pink. These welcoming colors connote the vibrancy of Latin American neighborhoods. The brilliant clashes and artful color contrasts have migrated with individuals and families into Latinx neighborhoods in the U.S.
Serrano's sculptural forms are crafted from cardboard. She has a predilection for the USPS boxes found in the post office lobbies, which offer the artist a "thin, smooth surface that is easier to work with and are free." Serrano's use of new or recycled cardboard speaks to a sense of resourcefulness that makes the most from the least, Tomas Ybarra-Frausto, Ph.D., defines this sensibility and approach as rasquachismo, "an underdog perspective-los de abajo...it presupposes a world view of the have not" but can-do attitude, which results in an aesthetic that is both defiant and inventive. Cardboard-- a utilitarian material not traditionally associated with fine art -- is an accessible medium and finds parallels in the everyday scenes Serrano deftly assembles.
As visitors move through the sculpture, plants appear to grow directly from the fence just as they would throughout cracks in the city sidewalks or streets. With soil, the organic shapes visibly emerge from the structure, and allude to the forced interactions and tension between the carefully constructed and the natural world. This juxtaposition provides space for the artist to connect her two cultural contexts, Mexican and American.
Serrano's family comes from Badiraguato, Sinaloa, a state known for its fertile soil. They lived close to the land, growing and raising their own food. In the 1970's those practices were disrupted when her family migrated to the United States. Since relocating to Los Angeles, Serrano's family has, in a single generation, transitioned to an urban economy, no longer sustaining themselves on the food solely grown on family land. The artist's laborious act of sculpting the natural urban landscape from cardboard and paper is a conceptual gesture made in homage to her family's heritage working the land in Mexico. This installation provides the contemplative space in which the artist, and consequently, the viewer, can honor traditions tied to home.