One of the artists in the NALC show at R Gallery is Deborah Kuetzpalin Vasquez, whose paintings and drawings deal with themes of feminine empowerment from an Out Queer Latina and Indigenous viewpoint. Currently a visiting professor at Our Lady of the Lake University, Vasquez has taught art at a number of community centers in SA, including MujerArtes at Esperanza Peace & Justice Center and Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, where she directed visual art studies. She also works with Bihl Haus Arts, where she collaborated with playwright Virginia Grise.
One of two paintings on view at R Gallery depicts La Santa Muerte, shown as half woman and half skeleton. Vasquez says La Muerte is “the inside of our own bodies, and so she understands and can feel our needs and faults more than any of the other saints.” She is also the patron of the drug cartels. “I think that we have limited physical power, but we do have strong mind power,” Vasquez said. “I am asking the Santa Muerte to intervene with her clients. She’s holding the scale of justice in one hand; in the other she holds the world. I’m trying to send some kind of mental power to people to be healed, so that they can stop killing our people.”
Though publicly lesbiana, Vasquez states that, “More people are afraid of my indigeneity and Chicanisma then probably my true spirited heart.” In her erotica series, she places two women making love but wearing indigenous headdresses. “Their love-making sounds are like the indigenous scrolls,” she said. “Indigenousness in my sexuality is really pronounced. It is something that indigenous culture accepted, but all of a sudden was taboo when Catholicism came in.”
Vasquez’s plans for the immediate future include making a huge banner for the Unite Here! hotel workers’ union demonstrations next month in SA. Asked why she supports the cause, Vasquez replied that, “Women who clean there, most of them are women who have like 40 rooms a day to clean. But trying to do it fast, they get hurt. If they complain, they get more rooms. The hotels are greedy, but you can be nice and still make money.”
Politics is “kind of like an everyday thing in San Antonio,” Vasquez says. But she expects more from the art community. “I hope that at some point we’d like to see our artists go out and work with the movement. We can’t just be working from behind our easels.”