Daniel Salazar's unique photo-constructions hit you full-on with that secret weapon so common to work in all disciplines of Chicano arts: humor. An acclaimed film documentarian, animator and photographer, Salazar thinks laughter is a great way to open up dialogue, and that's the point of his ongoing series Machos Sensitivos, for which he's manipulated images of traditional Mexican icons to create a new view of the ingrained male bastion of machismo in Latino culture. A number of those works will be displayed in Más Machos, an exhibit that opens Friday at the Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design.
"They tend to generate extreme responses," Salazar says of his pieces, noting that at least one past exhibit of such images elicited a protest organized by the owner of local Spanish-language radio station demanding that the pictures be removed -- in particular, a famous one of El Mandilón, aka Emiliano Zapata, brandishing a box of Tide and a broom in place of the usual rifle and saber. "You can imagine a bunch of middle-aged machos at loggerheads, can't you?" Salazar says. "They were hurt, but they were also machos, which made me ask, 'Well, are you hurt or are you macho?' Isn't that the whole idea?"
That is the whole idea, and there's no affront intended: Thus, "El Valiente," a common lotería-card image of a domineering fellow carrying a serape and a bloody knife, carries a box of Huggies and a plastic baby. "It's a way of appreciating under-regarded or often neglected aspects of machismo, such as taking responsibility for your children or your actions," Salazar explains.
And for Salazar, it's a chance to stand in the shoes of another folkloric icon: El Coyote, or the Trickster. "Visualizing and creating images that demonstrate alternatives -- that's a trickster idea," he says. "Trickster doesn't provide solutions; he tricks people into having to re-evaluate. For me, that's one of the most often underappreciated purposes of creating art: to encourage reinterpretation and help release us from the mental ruts we often get into: stereotyping, labeling -- all that other stuff."