by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Art, like people, comes in many forms. For decades the LGBT community has worked to secure our rights as citizens - first-class, that is, not second. What we've known all along is that we couldn't win the fight alone so we have turned to our straight allies for help. Many of them have answered that call and are helping to change our lives forever. Local painter Xavier Lopez Jr. is one of those allies.
Lopez told Seattle Gay News that nearly two years ago, 'a friend of mine named Aileen Sisson contacted me and asked if I might be interested in doing some work with the White Center Chamber of Commerce.'
He said that he was, indeed, interested, and that 'led to a mural that I did, which was for both the Chamber and the Lions Club International.'
'White Center is very interested in finding ways to deal with many of the issues of being a city and that includes graffiti, drugs etc.,' he said. 'One of the best deterrents to so much of the ills that plague so many areas in America and Washington state in particular, is art.'
Wanting to make a difference, Lopez grabbed his paint and got to work. He told SGN that the White Center mural will 'hopefully be done by the end of the summer.'
Lopez is painting the mural, located at 1654 S.W. 107th St., on his days off from work.
PARTNERSHIP WITH SAM
Recently, Lopez was invited by the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) to paint a mural for them. Again, he obliged. 'I was looking for a way to become more connected to the Seattle Art Museum and asked them if there was any way that that could be arranged,' he recalls. 'Well, you can imagine my surprise and delight when they said yes and that they had some very specific ideas in mind.'
'The Seattle Art Museum is perhaps the most important art institution in Washington and it is the place that all young artists go to learn about the possibilities of what art can be,' he added. 'Museums like SAM, Frye, and MOMA are so important to the alternative and street art scenes because they are like a translator - they take history and make it something that we can grasp, hope, and dream about.'
'It is a huge responsibility,' Lopez said, adding, 'I think because through what they choose to show the youngest artists, they have a huge influence on the future of Seattle and Washington artists.'
Another local artist, Ryan Henry Ward, will be live painting in the Olympic Sculpture Park on August 3, from 1 to 3 p.m. This is the first time SAM has worked with local, alternative artists in this way, and he is excited to be part of the whole thing and hopes this will be the first of many such projects.
'There have been many studies published that show that visible art, that is art on the walls, in community centers, on building walls - anywhere that they can be seen - brings the entire community up,' said Lopez.
'It is a form of communication and bonding and uplifts the spirits of its inhabitants,' he continued. 'Places like White Center are even starting to build up mural walks, where people specifically come to their towns just to see the art that is on its walls.
'Slowly but surely, how can the inhabitants of an area not begin to feel pride in themselves when they see that others are talking about their sense of culture and the beauty on their walls? I am so proud to be part of something like that and proud to speak about the importance that public art brings to any and every community.'
Xavier Lopez Jr. does not identify as Gay or Bisexual, but he gladly identifies himself as an ally to the community. 'I have always sought to stand with my Gay, Lesbian, Transgendered, and Queer brothers and sisters,' he said. 'When I was a graduate student at U.C. Davis, I spent a summer working at the Gay and Lesbian Historical Society in San Francisco and it was an awesome experience! Over the years, lots of people have wondered if I was Gay and I take that as a compliment every time it happens!'
It's not always easy, he says, but he continues to do it to this day. 'As a child and especially as a teenager, a lot of the other kids thought I was Gay and I actually got beaten up a few times because of this, but what that taught me was an appreciation for being different and the hard, cold challenge of fighting for what you believe in and, moreover, what is right.'
He told SGN, 'On issues like marriage, freedom, expression, etc., the LGBT community has always been on the side of the angels and I am proud to be able to add my voice to the shout that is being heard around the world!'
Lopez says that every artist has a message. 'My art actually stands for the right to send a message directly to others without any perceived limitations. A lot of people have asked me why I don't paint artwork that is fundamentally Hispanic, or paint 'Day of the Dead,' but I think I am part of a generation of artists that no longer needs to prove that it has that amazing weight of history on its shoulders.'
He added, 'I love Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, [David Alfaro] Siqueiros, and [José Clemente] Orozco, but I am not connected to them.'
'It drives me crazy when people assume that they know something about me simply because I am Chicano,' said Lopez. 'You really don't - you may think you do - but that sort of universalizing died out long ago. I am me, and this is my work and that is a strong message in and of itself. We all need to be seen as individuals and when we choose to be seen by a collective self - whether it be LGBT, Hispanic, Feminist, Queer, etc. - it needs to be on our terms, to the extent with which we choose.'
Lopez continued, 'I really hope that everyone will join us on Saturday and in September for Parking Day in which Ryan Henry Ward and I will be painting under the [SAM] Hammering Man. I hope that you will check out my artwork on Facebook and on my blog at http://xavierlopezjr.blogspot.com/. I also just really hope that my artwork brings a smile to everyone's face and that when you see me working on a mural or live painting to techno that you will feel free to stop by and say 'hi'!'
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