The first thing you notice about the title of Bobby Marines’ upcoming art exhibit, “Hispanic Latino Chicano Texican American Any Questions?” are the commas. There are none.
Marines doesn’t have anything against punctuation. Their banishment was more a convenience. He needed the space to fit all the ethnic labels Marines wanted on his flier. But there is a deeper meaning to the run-on title of his art exhibit. Just don’t get Marines started. Of what it means to be Latino in America. Of the larger question of self-identity. It can be a confounding question.
“It’s not like, ‘OK, Hispanic here. I’m Latino here. I’m American there. It’s all one,” Marines said in a phone conversation. “It’s pretty much one big word. We could jumble that all together.”
And that pretty much goes to the core of Marines’ exhibit to be held Saturday, March 12 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the Peace Plaza outside Mac’s Cafe and Restaurant.
The 31-year-old Marines (pronounced Marinez) was born in South Texas. His move to Rochester was originally intended to be a short trip to visit his mom and see the snow. He decided to stay. That’s when questions of identify began to emerge more insistently. Marines rarely dealt with questions of race or ethnicity living in Robstown, Texas, a city 90 percent Hispanic, as frequently as in majority-white Rochester, where he got them all the time.
“Coming up here, being called a Latino artist or Latino minority or whatever, I’m like, ‘Wait. What?” Marines said.
Marines calls the exhibit a “stepping out” for him as an artist, not only because it will be his first stand-alone show but also because of the “scale of the work,” which will include six sizable four-feet-by-five-feet paintings.
“It’s somewhat political. It’s addressing issues,” Marines said.
For the record, Marines’ own identity is a bit of a jumble, with ancestral strains from Mexico, Barcelona, Spain and indigenous populations.
“On one hand, it’s difficult trying to figure out what ethnic label applies. On the other, I’m trying to explore how that heritage, history and culture tie into myself as someone born and raised as an American,” Marines said. “This has been an underlying issue for millions of Mexican-Americans, so I’m hoping my work will shed a contemporary light on it.”
Like his identity, Marine’s paintings are often a colorful melange of images drawn from American history, pop culture, consumer advertising and religion. Nixon clowns faces juxtaposed with Mariachi players, Stealth bombers next to Corona Extra bottles.
Marines believes such weighty questions should and can be be pursued in a spirit of fun. He’s considering playing some games of Mexican bingo at the exhibit, which uses the Spanish language and everyday pictures instead of numbers. And a cash bar will also be included.
“One of the things a friend told me a long time ago,” Marines said. “If you’re going to do art shows, bring alcohol.”
Marines received a $5,000 grant from the Southeast Minnesota Arts Council to fund the the exhibit, which will include 10 to 15 large paintings. Acropolis Properties, which owns Mac’s restaurant, is hosting the event.
What: Bobby Marines’ art exhibit, “Hispanic Latino Chicano Texican American Any Questions?
When: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, March 12. An artist talk will be at 7 p.m.
Where: Peace Plaza at Mac’s Cafe and Restaurant, 19 1st Street S.W., Rochester, Minn.
A $3 to $5 donation is suggested. A cash bar will be provided by Mac’s.