Art and Activism: A Mexican Artist’s Take

By Victor Gomez

As far as I can remember, art has always been a part of my life and who I am. The earliest memories I have of making art go back to when my mom and I still lived in Mexico with my grandfather. At that time, art was nothing more than a pastime for me. It wasn’t until I moved to the US that art became a coping mechanism for everything I was experiencing and for the things I couldn’t understand. Art helped me transition into a new life and allowed me to communicate and express myself in ways I couldn’t do verbally. 

My name is Victor Gomez, and I am originally from Cardenas, San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Like many immigrant families, I left home at a young age and moved to the US looking for something better. Everything about the transition was difficult, but I specifically remember first grade being the most challenging. Communicating was extremely tough, and I was constantly challenged to keep up with all of my classmates. I still remember struggling with learning a new language and making friends. Throughout all of this, making art was one of the only things that made me feel happy and in control. Art class was the only class I enjoyed and the only class in which I outperformed all of my classmates. Looking back, art was extremely helpful in giving me the confidence and courage to push forward during that first year. Art encouraged me to work harder in other areas of school and gave me the confidence to step out of my comfort zone. By the end of second grade, I was able to communicate with teachers and other students, and my grades had improved. Art allowed me to break most of the barriers I faced that first year, and it took away a lot of the fear and anxiety of being in a new environment. 

Fast forward a couple of years, and not much has changed. Art has continued to open so many doors and opportunities for me and has allowed me to grow as a person. I’ve been able to meet, work, and learn from some incredible people and mentors. Art has also allowed me to reflect on my identity and what I want to accomplish through my work. While I’ve managed to stay connected to my heritage and roots, there are aspects of my culture I will never be able to experience. I constantly think about how different my life would be if I hadn’t moved to the US, and how much I missed out on by not growing up in Mexico. I also think about everything I’ve been able to accomplish here and how most of that wouldn’t be possible where I come from. Nevertheless, I am extremely thankful for the decision my parents made to move and for their constant reminders of how important it is to stay connected to my culture and traditions. 

I had my first solo exhibition last October at the Acansa Art Gallery in North Little Rock. The show was titled Ser Un Inmigrante, or To Be An Immigrant. It focused on my experiences as an immigrant, and how that has shaped me into the person I am today. Apart from sharing my story, I wanted to address and bring attention to other important issues regarding immigration and immigration policies within our country. Some of these issues included the separation of families, children in cages, the mistreatment of agricultural workers, and the rescinding of DACA. Being an immigrant has forced me to question my identity time and time again, and has largely impacted my day-to-day life. I think that sharing my story and experiences will provide people with a unique perspective on the struggles and fears that immigrants face daily. Having this opportunity has helped me realize the sorts of things I can do with my work going forward. It was an awesome experience to put on this show and to see people talk about such consequential issues as a result.  

I believe art has the power to change our communities and to help solve many of the issues that we face today. There is something magical and unique about the way you can communicate ideas and messages without saying a single word. I think art is so powerful for that exact reason! Regardless of age, race, gender, or nationality, art can evoke emotions specific to each individual. It has the power to change the way we look at or think about certain things and can allow us to come together. I don’t know where I will be 10 or 20 years from now, but I hope to be doing something impactful in the Arts. Art has been such an integral part of my life, and I don’t ever see that changing.  

You can find Victor’s work on Instagram @victor.gomez.art More information about the Acansa Art Gallery can be found here

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