the irony and the ecstasy

by urquiza!
Posts Tagged ‘family’

the ancestral land: arturo no. three

mr. churro arturo no. one (link)

after the grand canyon arturo no. two (link)

he likes to present himself as absolute, an urquiza family trait probably something we brought from spain. even in the family home everything has a finality as well, but like all fathers it seems they relent eventually. you can see the dialogue between lisa his wife, devon and tristen that either support or challenges the hierarchy. in this world his daughter devon is his hope. he believes she is greater than the sum of he and lisa, while tristen is his innocence. it is the self he keeps hidden from everyone. there is a photograph my sister carmen took of him with his cousin loui as boys playing on a big wheel tricycle. i think that moment or perhaps that photograph helped define him. photography is tricky business like that, does it project? or does it reflect?

these images took place during our expedition of sorts to visit the town of his great grandparents and where our branch of tapias in the united states grew from. globe, arizona was once the capital and the county seat where francisco tapia owned the dodge dealership. he sold cars and trucks to the indians and mexicans. even as a dark skinned mestizo his wealth as local leader allowed him to participate in the mainstream white culture to an extent. arturo is highly assimilated into american culture, but desires to understand his origins or perhaps find some cloak to define himself. sitting in the globe church that our ancestors may have sat in, i asks the same questions of myself. but also, this place is one step closer to Isabel his grandmother, who grew up here with her sisters playing among the pueblo ruins before it was turned into a park and visitors center. closer to my grandmother felicitas who would sit on the hilltop old western cemetery to tend the gravestones of the unknown with my mother. just as isabel did with me in the cemeteries of los angeles. he does not walk alone into the future, lisa, devon and tristen all walk resolute together through the desert to where they are going.

: :   : :  : :

the youngest elder

i remember arizona through my aunt eloise’s house, wild and faded. beaten by the sun and heat, the economics of race and my latent family along the salt river. from there i can see my grandmother’s apron and stern face whom i never knew in person only by photograph. my aunt eloise’s daughter, my cousin raquel… i always thought she had such an exotic name. she was a nurse and married to gustavo guiterez the farm labour and native american activists of arizona. gustavo passed earlier that year. it was “raquee’s” turn now. my mother always wanted me to know them better. she told me once, “gus is a communist”. it was the cold war and he had the beard to prove it. the thing i think they had was the love and respect for other people. that is what she wanted me to know with them. whatever trouble gus got into as an activist, they shared it. “raquee” was cesar chavez’s nurse when he fasted for 22 days, while gus organised across mexico and the southwest. they were always helping, doing, traveling in an old truck or van. though my mother and her mother lived in different worlds, the spirit of travel was something they both shared. these same traits i see in my siblings and cousins. she was tapia.

raquel, her daughter’s name as well and gustavo her grandson bend down to begin spreading her ashes in the desert. everyone takes a turn and with a small cup we scoop up some ashes. each of us wanders off into a secluded corner of papago park. you can’t say one name without the other. when gus and raquee moved nearby so many years ago, the area was wild desert. i would hear stories about the salt river and camping trips, pow wows and my cousins voices, “come to arizona and visit, johnny”. the last time i saw raquee was under the mural a local artist painted in their house. we never sit long enough… now it is me telling my nephew arturo, “visit your cousins, they live right down the street from you”.

05.19.12 — 11.10.13

: :   : :   : :

primos y primas

they are not like us, but we are exactly like them. eyes, nose, mouth and ears, we are copies of our parents as we are copies of copies and copies of each other. perhaps, we keep making copies until we forget our origins.

05.19.12 — 11.10.13

: :   : :   : :

after the grand canyon

part two in the continuing series in the study of my nephew arturo. these are photographed almost to the day a year later from the first sitting. yeah, homie is still wearing the same hat and a similar sweatshirt… in this trip he leads his wife and two kids, as well as his mom who wanted to join us through the experiences he shared with my mother.

see part one in the series “mr churro” (here).


















: :   : :

mr. churro

mr. churro is a work in progress. it is an exploration into my nephew arturo urquiza’s world. in this set arturo returns to his childhood memories by visiting olvera street. he came here often with his grandmother who passed away of cancer more than twenty years ago. i remember him as  a goofy teenage boy with an overbite and a choppy haircut. he is now a man complete with tattoos and his own children.




























: :   : :

perdido en califas

(lost in the californias)

(this is the original artist’s statement used from the exhibition 09.13.07. the images below have been edited down from the original 60 in the catalog. all images are available as a numbered edition with pigments on hahnemuehle bamboo paper.)

my tribe is from the desert mountains of mexico. the tarahumara indian land is where they say, “the moon is the day of the night”. we came through texas and arizona like thousands of others escaping the past. our ancestors from spain lived amoung a similar land and escaped their past through mexico. our parents escaped to california and i was left here in this new world.

shooting polaroids in the digital camera era seems so provincial now, but this project started when few even had an e.mail address. the polaroid fell into my hands as a tool for documentation at the design office i was employed. after studying and working for several years with traditional film i still considered the polaroid a toy. my first instant images of intellectual depth provoked a crucial emotion that swelled as the image formed on the surface. my photographs until that moment had only been exercises in light, concepts or a forced reality that explored traditional film’s technical limitations.

polaroids eventually allowed me to shed my technical encumbrances. i began to see form and colour. these images became my personal sketch pad of things i could never use. they were for me and no one else except for those maybe sharing the same moment. these and other polaroids now represent the emotional possibilities of the world i walked through. the beginning of my dreams mixing with my reality.

i always traveled through california chasing friends, chasing seasons or escaping the killing jar of los angeles. at first it was coincidence that i traveled to all the places of my youth. then it became a deliberate search for something that i remembered, my youth, my family. i visited these broad landscapes of my youth while trying to comprehend the narrow path of the present. the echo of these images were forms that i could slightly recall from the storage boxes of polaroids, super 8 film and kodak prints of my inheritance. the records of our time as a family contained people whom i recognised, but seemed restrained and afraid while others were invincible. they are nothing like the people i know today.

with these same people i traveled the road trips of my youth. they were sometimes clichéd and painful situation comedies, albeit in spanish. others i could not catch my breath from all the fun. my mother always watched the road from the passenger’s seat concerned and ready to use her imaginary brakes; my sister, the teenager and all that encompasses, rode in the back seat; sometimes our grandmother—dressed in black complete with a shawl for covering her head ready for any church we should encounter along the way—and myself would share naranjas in the rest of the back seat. when it all became too much i would fall asleep in my father’s extra large chrysler while it hushed through the desert to palm springs or even the boulevards of east los angeles.

my mother passed away in 1987. the grief that event carried began the first of my many journeys. i looked for signs to the future, signs of joy and the understanding of sadness. traveling became an act of escape, and with that an act of memory recall, just like my mothers short trips and voyages she took us on. memory is a collection of associations based on feelings, experiences and knowledge. of all the things i forgot about my youth, these images are things i could remember and not let go. this collection of images became associations to a distant memory of trying to heal a grief. in the end, the journey and these images became my own history. as much as my parents’ journeys and ancestors’ journeys were theirs. these images belong to my journey home.




find a lo res version of the entire catalog including those edit out here

press releases and pictures from different shows of the polaroids here



: :   : :