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Battle of the Saints / Self Help Graphics & Art / Long Beach City College Art Gallery


Battle of the Saints

Self Help Graphics & Art

Curated by Natalie Godinez and Lulu Urdiales

Long Beach City College Art Gallery, Long Beach, CA

March 7 - April 27, 2024


Battle of the Saints, highlights everyday icons worshiped across cultures. Their images and likeness have become so ubiquitous that they appear in our daily lives, from billboards to candles, key chains, murals, t-shirts, toys, and more throughout our world. Revered figures like wrestlers, saints, gods, artists, political activists, and athletes are a few of the cultural icons whose likeness instills a profound sense of community pride and empowerment.


The artists in the exhibition have all used iconography as a powerful storytelling tool. Some subvert the image of cultural and religious icons. In contrast, others elevate an everyday hero into a holy figure by appropriating symbols from religious depictions of saints, including La Virgen de Guadalupe. The image of La Virgen acts as a bridge to create a dialogue between tradition and current culture. She is portrayed as a powerful boxing champion by artist Alma Lopez or a cultural icon worthy of memorializing on the skin, as seen in Delilah Montoya’s serigraph. A print by Isabel Martinez showcases her as the divine mother, linked to the powerful creation deity Coatlicue. Jacqueline Valenzuela uses votive candles featuring La Virgen in an installation inspired by her memories of visiting Mexico.


Additionally, some artists bring attention to influential figures through unique and innovative perspectives. Josiah O’Balles elevates the luchador (wrestler), Chicano Power, in his painting as a Saint, taking a stand against oppression. On the other hand, Nao Bustamante uses performance and gaudy aesthetics to memorialize Walter Mercado, a television astrologer integral to many homes across Latin America and its diaspora.


In a symbolic "Battle of the Saints," Self Help Graphics & Art playfully bestows a sense of "sainthood" upon pop culture icons while revisiting traditional religious symbols and figures in a contemporary context. The exhibition acknowledges these characters' elevated status within immigrant communities as symbols of hope, empowerment, and cultural connections to the motherland.


This group show highlights prints from the Self Help Graphics Professional Print Studio, including artists Alma Lopez, Alfredo de Batuc, Delilah Montoya, Frank Ybarra, Isabel Martinez, Jose Roberto Barrero, Yreina Cervantez, Victor Gastelum, and Chaz Bojorquez, alongside local artists in Los Angeles and Long Beach, including Adriana Carranza of Kalli Arte Collective, Aneesa Shami Zizzo, April Bey, Carolyn Castaño, Cultivarte Studios, Dewey Tafoya, Ernesto Vazquez, Jacqueline Valenzuela, Jose M. Loza, Josiah O'Balles, Las Chicas Peligrosas, Mike Alcala, Nao Bustamante, and Sayon Syprasoeuth.


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