The sun rises and three hundred thousand people, riled from their sleep, bring life and color to the streets and avenues of this city in the heart of Orange County, California. Santa Ana, on a mere 30 square miles, boasts a vibrantly multifarious history. And yet, in this city of shifting demographics, seemingly endless restructuring and gentrification, you run the risk of missing the depth of that history. And it is here that the role of art as an engine for conscious empowerment and change is made evident. You may, for example, walk downw the streets of Downtown, and catch, on the side of a building, or tucked behind a trendy eatery, perhaps even emblazoned onto an electrical box, the earthy tones of a mural by “The Heavy” art collective led by Bud Herrera and Kimberly Duran. You will notice the intricate color combinations elaborated using aerosol and paint. You may even be attracted by the playful contradiction between muted earth tones and vibrantly colorful hues which work so well in combination. Perhaps it is the subject matter that draws your eye, that synthesis of cultural icons that transgress the racial and national divides of this hybrid city. Frida Kahlo’s likeness dripping with indigenous beauty and articulation. The beautiful walnut skin tones of revolutionary women carrying the symbolic weapons of a forgotten revolution begging to be remembered, peaceful Buddhas floating through space or the reimagined Catrina, with an Hindu Ajna, or third-eye, agape, looking out beyond the confines of the canvas. Whatever lured your eye to this, their canvas, it has put you face-to-face with art that is in a dialogical relationship with its community.
The Heavy has created over one hundred murals in Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties and has even collaborated with and sponsored artists in Mexico City, thereby becoming one of the most prolific artist groups in the area with a formidable body of work. Both artist’s share close ties to the communities wherein they work. These are ties built over decades of personal experience growing up in those communities, and working with organizations, both social and educational, that make up the human tapestry of populations in flux. “They are changing the panorama of the city” a Univision anchor said during a story highlighting their work in the community. However, their recent notoriety belies a history of struggle and hard fought success, both as individual artists in two separate cities and then as the collaborative duo who’ve garnered attention for their murals and financial support they’ve received from the city to continue their work. The Heavy Art Collective serves as an example of the dedication, inventiveness, and activism of Chicanx artists in Southern California. Look into the eyes of the children who’ve been privileged enough to hear them speak and you will see how years of artistic experience and success, when used to connect with the community, are already inspiring future artist and activists. What does the future hold for this art’s collective? If you ask them, they will say that it will benefit the community, a project that will engage the imagination of future generations, something that will revive the hidden histories of the city, that will acknowledge the multiple voices of the people who fight, live, laugh, love, struggle, and thrive in our beautifully contested communities.
Santa Ana Arts News
News, opportunities and updates for the creative community.