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"Giving everyone their fifteen bytes of fame"
July 2002
Page 4
Ruby Chacon (continued from page 1)

Chacón's family became the primary focus of her work. She painted her mother, her nieces and nephews, her grandfather, her son. "These were the subjects that interested me most. So I painted them." In doing so, she has received tremendous recognition across the Southwest in Utah, New Mexico, and California for her large (sometimes oversize) figures. Her brilliance is in its simplicity. It is not shocking, didactic, or pretentious. It is simply a long honest look at a person's face, or gesture. In doing so, she captures an essence of humanity on canvas. It feels as though the person on canvas may speak at any moment, or perhaps you have recently passed them on the street. Despite her colorful impressionistic style, the figure on canvas feels real.

Though her family has become the subject of her work, she insists that it is not ethnic art. "I am not going to complain about being Chicana or Mexicana, or any of the experiences that come with that, good or bad. Wherever you go in the world there are ignorant people. That is a fact of life. I am deeply proud of who I am, my roots. I love ranchera music, homemade tortillas; I love to hear my mother call me Jita. I have a fascination with low-riders. I have a fascination with our struggle in America. The fact that I paint these people that doesn't make me an Ethnic artist, meaning non-white, it simply means that I paint what moves me, what I know. There have been people that suggest I should "step away from the ethnic thing" which is ridiculous. No one would ever try to take the American Diner from Hopper, or American pop culture from Andy Warhol, the flag from Jasper Johns. So why should I have to give up low-riders or my grandfather in order to fit into other people's idea of what an artist should be?? Even so, her art has taken a turn down other roads, "You tell a story, again and again and again. Many people have asked me these things, these same questions, and after a while, you just want to talk about something else. Painting is like that. Now it may be my family that I want to paint, but tomorrow nudes, then next year maybe American pop culture. If that is what interests me then that is what I will paint, and (she laughs) who knows, maybe I'll even fall in love with the landscapes everyone tells me I should paint."

Chacón's studies have taken her to Central America. She has spent time in Mexico studying the great muralist movement, and the Mexican Renaissance. Chacón's work has been exhibited in Tokyo and London and she is now preparing for a couple of upcoming shows. Recently, she opened The Mestizo Gallery on the West Side exhibiting her own works along with several other local and international artists. AHA magazine has called her the hidden jewel of the Southwest. This September her work can be seen in a joint exhibition with another local favorite Guillermo Colmenero. For those interested Chacón can be contacted at Mestizo Gallery, 511 West 2oo South #125, Salt Lake City, Utah. 801-519-ARTE or e-mail at Rubychacó or

Exhibit Preview 

The Sandy Public Library is hosting a photographic exhibit that profiles many Latin American leaders in Utah, past and present. "Extraordinary Hispanic Americans - Latino Americanos in Utah" is a collection of portraits that celebrates the accomplishments of many Latin Americans in all walks of Utah life: science, labor, arts, education, sports and politics. It provides another perspective of Latino participation into Utah culture and society, people who are making a difference in every day life of Utahns and doing so with a taste of salsa. 

The exhibit features the work of Bravo, a Brazilian-born artist photographer. He has had work published in Brazil, the United States and Japan, where he was invited by Japanese Creative Arts to exhibit his works. Bravo has lived in Utah for the past seven years and is gradually making an impact locally as well.

The show is open to the public and runs from July 8 to July 31 at the Sandy City Pubic Library (801-943-4636) is at 10100 South Petunia Way.

Alernative Venues 
Rio Grande Cafe

by Steve Coray
That big "whoosh" you heard back in May was the collective sigh of relief by Northern Utahns over the stay of execution that the Rio Grande Cafe had just received. The state had reconsidered its plan to use the space, located at the historic Rio Grande Train Station, for its archives. Once a hangout for a variety of subcultures, the cafe is now popular with families and business people, happy to still be able to dine there. 

Since opening its doors 21 years ago, cafe owners Pete and Jean Henderson have served up fine Mexican food and displayed the artwork of Utah artists. They enjoy being able to decorate the cafe with fresh artwork and welcome the new customers it helps draw in.

Originally displaying the work of some friends, the cafe shows a wide variety of artwork and tends toward the avant garde. The cafe doesn't actually sell the artwork that adorns its wood-paneled walls. Rather, if a patron expresses interest, he or she is put in contact with the artist.

Exhibitions hang for a month and are scheduled out about a year in advance. Many emerging artists who were first shown there went on to become well-known Utah artists. The Rio Grande now requires interested artists to first submit a portfolio of their work.

The Rio Grande Cafe (801-364-3302) is located at 270 Soouth Rio Grande Street in Salt Lake City. It is open Monday through Saturday for lunch from 11:00 am until 2:30 pm and dinner from 5:00 pm until 10:30 pm, and Sunday from 4 pm to 9 pm.

Artists Gathering 

Following the release of each new issue of 15 Bytes, Artists of Utah holds an informal gathering for artists and art lovers. To support the businesses that support Utah artists, we meet for lunch at one of Salt Lake's restaurants that hang and sell Utah art.

There is no particular agenda - it is just about helping to build a stronger visual arts community in Utah. So, whether you are an artist, an administrator or an art lover, you're invited to attend. You are welcome to come armed with questions, comments or complaints. Artists may want to bring postcards if they want to promote their work. Most of the attendees will not have already met, so don't be shy about diving in.

Our next lunchg will be held Wednesday, July 17th, at Rio Grande Cafe at 1:00pm. While no formal response is required, we do like to be able to have the restaurant set aside adequate space. So if you know you plan to attend, please let us know.