East LA</i>, from the series "Batalla de los Chiles"<i>

East LA, from the series "Batalla de los Chiles", lino-print, 2014

Jose Marentes-Gonzalez is a Chicano artist based in Des Moines, Iowa.  He grew up in a traditional Mexican household where hard work was an essential part of his everyday life.  Never finishing middle school, he spent most of his time working with his father cleaning stores and offices and taking odd jobs.  His mother took many jobs as well, often working through the night.  Times were difficult for Jose and his family, but they pulled through together.  His father and mother taught him the value of family and tradition.

One of Jose's fondest memories is the sharing of family stories.  His father, who lived a difficult life in Ciudad Juarez, would often tell stories of his experiences.  From singing in buses at age 7 to crossing the border for the benefit of his family, these stories would influence Jose tremendously.  As he grew older, he continued in the tradition of his father and mother, re-counting stories with his children and teaching them the value of family and tradition.  Aware of the power of a great story, Jose uses its strengths to relate with others.  He often articulates his personal experiences, especially with younger generations. 

In Jose's adolescent years, school was not important, and sadly, work took priority.  He was a child roaming aimlessly without direction.  Today, one of Jose's many achievements is mentoring young children.  No longer without direction or drive, Jose recently broke a family tradition.  In May 2015 Jose graduated from Grand View University and is paving a new path to inspire future generations.

The artist tell us about his work:

"1982 was the year I was born.  During this time the Hispanic community in Iowa was little to none.  Around the 90s is when I began to notice a flux of culture.  It wasn't without difficulty however.  There were many who opposed the sudden change.  Fights broke out, and whites vs. color was a common theme.  It all started with hateful words and then came the violence and the bloodshed.  Several Hispanics would not report these crimes for fear of arrest and deportation.  Many crimes would go undocumented as if nothing ever happened.

Printmaking to me is a means of exploring my heritage.  Like many Hispanic printmakers, I am a story teller.  The use of humor is an important visual element I incorporate.  I feel this creates an opportunity to communicate with people of all cultures.  The Calavera (skull) found in my work is an homage to the art styles of many Mexican artists.  The cliché jalapeno also found in my art is a means to bring familiarity to the unknown.  I am a raw and energetic person at heart.  I often tell stories with great emphasis and gestures.  Lines permeate my works to give emphasis to movement and enthusiasm.  My intentions are to elevate and bring understanding to a culture with no voice."

This page was first displayed
on September 25, 2015

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