Arts and Culture

RTD art: Emanuel Martinez at the Tenth and Osage station

We chatted with Emanuel Martinez a few weeks ago about his murals that brighten the streets of Denver. This time around, we're talking with him about his sculpture "Mestizaje," which stands tall at the Tenth and Osage light-rail station.

See also: - RTD art: Brian Swanson's chess pieces at the 16th and Stout streets station - RTD art: Wopo Holup at the Orchard station - RTD art: Ira Sherman's "Stang Machine" at the Louisiana-Pearl station

Westword: Where are you from? Where do you reside now?

Emanuel Martinez:I am from Denver and I reside in Morrison.

How did your collaboration with RTD come about?

My collaboration with RTD came about from a call for entry and a request for qualifications that RTD sent out to local artists. I was chosen as one of three finalists.

How did you come up with the Idea for this piece?

The idea for "Mestizaje" came from my past involvement in the civil rights movement. In 1966, I worked with Cesar Chavez in Delano, California; at the United Farm Workers union I was exposed to the symbol of the Aztec eagle, which I used in the design. The stylized eagle with extended wings recalls a pre-Columbian pyramid turned upside down. The spirit of the eagle emerges from the mind and eyes of a tripartite head that I designed to represent the Mestizo, a mixture of Spanish and the peoples indigenous to Mexico. This image has become an icon and symbol of La Raza: The Mexican American.

What or who inspired this piece? And how?

The brotherhood symbol of four races embracing arms in peace was used in the first Chicano mural painted in Denver in 1970 at La Alma (Lincoln Park). Both the maize (staff of life) and the serpent (Quetzalcoatl, God of culture) are symbols that Chicano artists have borrowed from pre-Columbian cultures as metaphors to develop cultural themes. The colored steel ribbons that embrace the "Mestizaje" synthesis represent "De Colores," a theme song for the Chicano movement.

When people are on their daily journey and walk past your work, what do you hope they are thinking and feeling?

I hope the viewers of this sculpture can feel the uplifting spirit that transpired during the early '70s in this west Denver neighborhood. A spirit that started the positive progressive changes that you now see in this area.

How do you feel about public transportation?

I believe in public mass transit.

What is your favorite piece of public art?

My favorite piece of public art is a 33 foot-high sculpture, "La Flor de La Alma," that I installed two weeks ago, one block away from "Mestzaje" at Tenth and Navajo.

To view more of Emanuel Martinez's sculptures and murals, visit his website.

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Zoe Yabrove is a Denver native with an undergraduate degree in creative writing and a master’s in special education. She is a teacher in Denver Public Schools and contributes to Westword to get her writing fix.
Contact: Zoe Yabrove