Art for Life

The television is on, transmitting images from the Columbine High School shooting into the front room of the Lucero studios, at West 33rd and Tejon. The walls are covered with the blood reds, dusty blues and luminous golds of Stevon Lucero's and Arlette Lucero's artwork. Even after Arlette turns off the TV, she sees the connection between the electronic pictures from the other side of town and the paintings on her wall.

In high school, she says, she never understood why people didn't like her, but she came to understand it was because of the color of her skin. Today in her paintings, lonely women rendered in shades of umber are generally on the inside looking out--but at the same time, a plum-colored sky or magenta lily pad conveys the transcendence that's possible when one sees things a bit differently.

And in Stevon's "Cosmic Seamstress," an ancient woman, the universe vast behind an opening in her adobe robe, sews together a torn, battered Earth. Those kinds of potentially healing images are everywhere in Stevon's work; he often puts Aztec images into contemporary contexts, hoping that age-old symbols presented in new ways will resurrect the lost spirit in those who see his paintings. It's his response to what he calls an "overly secularized culture" that channels people's creative energy into "making bombs and being consumers."

The Luceros are members of the Chicano Humanities & Arts Council, which Stevon helped found twenty years ago. "We wanted to band together to instigate and create value," he says. "To allow Latino expression to come out." That will happen in an energetic way this weekend at CHAC's Cinco de Mayo group show, which celebrates the group's dozens of painters, photographers, sculptors and performers. In addition to the work of artists who've been painting for thirty years, there will be plenty of young blood.

For example, Hektor Munoz and his Teatro Metro Theater will perform An evening of things, which includes a monlogue about AIDS and another about his grandmother's death. Munoz worked in the Warhol and punk-inspired performance and poetry scenes in New York and Los Angeles before returning to Denver to work on a Chicano studies major at Metropolitan State College. The combination of those two cultures, he says, gives his work its power.

"My grandmother was someone who would understand me having green hair," he says. "When someone like that dies, you cannot ever fill that void. By putting it in performance, it becomes universal, because we've all had a person who was that for us. It's almost a subliminal message that it's okay to have emotion, especially in the machismo world. As a Latino male, I'm breaking that mold just by admitting that I'm having these feelings."

Shaking up such stereotypes is what the Cinco de Mayo show is all about, says Arlette Lucero. "There's a variety of styles among the Chicano people. It's an expression of our gente."

"And it's not just for Hispanics," she adds. "It's a celebration that everyone can participate in."

And should.

--C.J. Janovy

Chicano Humanities & Arts Council Cinco de Mayo Group Show, Friday, April 30, 7-10 p.m., 772 Santa Fe Drive, 303-571-0440.