Ruby Chacón’s culture and identity is shown through art
Artist will speak Thursday and show art on Saturday
Two days prior to showing her works at the Christian Center of Park City’s second annual Latino Arts Festival on Saturday, visual artist Ruby Chacón will give a more intimate presentation at the Park City Library.
Chacón, whose exhibit “Honoring My Community,” is currently showing at the library, will discuss her identity as a Chicana artist at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 1.
The event is free and open to the public.
“A lot of the presentation will be about my work and the different stages of how my work developed and how I found my identity through my work and its creative process,”
Chacón said during an interview with The Park Record. “It’s not going to be like how I paint.”
Although Chacón has loved art for as long as she remembers, it wasn’t until she was in her late 20s where she realized her art could educate the public about her culture.
“I used to draw a lot of images that reflected my Chicana identity when I was young, but I don’t think I was aware that I was reflecting [it],” she said. “I think I became more self aware how art could empower me and reflect my identity was when I was almost about to graduate with my BFA from the University of Utah.”
Chacón’s nephew Orlando was murdered then.
“Right after the incident, we had family members come to my house to tell us to be careful about the media, because the reporters would get the story wrong and taint our identity through stereotypes because we are an underrepresented community,” Chacón said. “I didn’t really know what it would feel like, until it actually happened. What they wrote about my nephew almost placed culpability on my sister. Although we were the victims, the media made it seem like she was at fault.”
Chacón saw the wrongness and knew she needed to do something.
“That’s when I felt like I had a responsibility to tell my story, but the problem was I didn’t know my own history or where I came from, other than being told that we were Mexican.”
Chacón decided to talk to her grandfather and find a way to tell her family’s stories.
“I asked my grandfather where we were from in Mexico and he told me we were not from Mexico, but from Utah,” she said. “He lived in Monticello.”
Chacón’s family, as was all of the Latino residents in the town, were segregated in the schools and punished for speaking Spanish.
She also learned that her family is a mix of Apache, Tewa Pueblo, Spanish, Mestiza, Mexika and Xican.
“I didn’t know we had that history, because that part of our history was not known,” Chacón said. “We didn’t have a counter narrative until I spoke with my grandfather.”
Speaking to her grandfather ignited a fire in Chacón.
“That’s when I realized I had a tool, a talent, that I needed to use to tell our stories,” she said.
The artist, known for capturing the stories of her multi-cultural background, was always interested in expression.
“I used to play the clarinet and loved music when I was young, but I think I had more access to crayons and pencils when I was a kid,” she said. “I can’t remember when I started to like it, because it was something I did to escape and make sense of my world.”
Chacón’s love for drawing ran in her family.
“I had an uncle names Covito, who was a painter, used to let us draw on his walls,” she said with a laugh. “I always thought that was something you always did, until I got in trouble for doing it at home.”
Her great-uncle Pacomio also loved art.
“He was a sheepherder and used to do carvings and drawings on rock walls while he took care of sheep in the mountains,” Chacón said.
Pacomio Chacón’s life and work is documented by Steven G. Baker in a book called “My Name is Pacomio: The Live and Works of Colorado’s Sheepherder and Master Artist of Nature’s Canvases.”
“People would find these carvings and put them in their restaurants,” Chacón said.
In addition to her two uncles Chacón’s great-great grandmother painted.
“So it was a language that ran through my family,” Chacón said. “Art was a way for my family to communicate in a sensory way and tell stories that you carry in our bodies.”
Throughout her career, Chacón has also held workshops, taught classes and other presentations. She has also created an array of murals and paintings.
“Sometimes when I work, I feel like there’ another voice, one from my ancestors, who is helping me express that counter narrative,” she said.
Artist Ruby Chacón will give a lecture at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 1, at the Park City Library, 1255 Park Ave. Chacón, whose paintings are on exhibit at the library, will talk about her art, creative process and life story. The event is free and open to the public. Chacón will also be one of the artists participating in the Latino Arts Festival from 3-8 p.m. on Saturday, June 3, at the library. For information, visit http://www.parkcitylibrary.org.
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Park City Library director Adriane Herrick Juarez hosts the Library Leadership Podcast that helps and inspires librarians across the country to strengthen their libraries.