Colorado painter Tony Diego looks battle-worn. There's a half-eaten apple fritter on a plate next to a manila folder full of news clippings, legal documents and advocacy materials about international child-abduction law. He knows the subject well: He's been in a multi-year court battle that he doesn't want to discuss in depth, for fear that doing so would jeopardize his own case, his own child.
So instead, he wants to talk about the generalities: the pain that parents go through when their children are taken from them to another country; the perilous maze of paperwork and court cases involved; the legal bodies, from municipal courts to the FBI to law enforcement, in countries far away that left-behind parents who want to see their children again have to navigate. He wants to talk about his group exhibit, Regresarás (You Will Return), which opens tonight, January 6, at the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council.
While curating and painting for this show has been therapeutic for Diego, he hopes that the work sheds light on the issues — not on him.
Roughly 1,000 children are reported to have been abducted and taken to another country every year. In countries covered by the Hague International Abduction Convention, an international agreement to make it easier for parents to recover their children, around 73 percent are returned.
Diego designed the show to inspire a concrete conversation that reaches not just policy-makers and legal authorities, but people who are unfamiliar with just how few resources there are for thousands of left-behind parents, and how difficult it is for them to bring a child home.
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He puts the burden on art to do that; using art to teach, address social issues and build community has been his life's work for decades. The paintings, sculptures and mixed-media pieces on display address the psychological, financial and legal turmoil that parents go through, as well as the fragmentation of families.
Many of the artists Diego has recruited for this show are friends and longtime collaborators. While the project is packaged in legal analysis and advocacy, the exhibit is deeply personal — both in subject matter and in the artists he chose to include. He worked with Izzy Lozano and Josiah Lopez in the ’90s and again in recent years in the Chicano art collective Los Phantazmas. Also in Regresarás are pieces by Paloma Lozano, Christine O’Dea, Alicia Cardenas, Justin Maes, Azul Olsen and Sheila Olsen.
The show opens with a reception from 5 to 10 p.m. on Friday, January 6, and runs through January 28 at the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council, 772 Santa Fe Drive.