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“Don’t Be Self-Conchas” by Jake Prendez fuses American and Hispanic Cultures

Covering the arms of Jake Prendez is a mosaic of tattoos reflecting a fusion of Hispanic heritage and American pop culture, ranging from the Virgin of Guadeloupe to Darth Vader. Although originally from East Los Angeles, Prendez is now based out of Seattle. His new exhibit, “Don’t Be Self-Conchas,”  is on display to  the public in the Student Diversity Center until May 13.

According to Prendez, the 11 paintings that make up the exhibition reflect the dual nature of being of Hispanic and living in the United States, which is reflected in the title of the exhibition: as conchas—pronounced quonchas—is a type of Mexican bread.

“(The exhibition is) taking all of my experiences growing up  in this hybrid, being American, but also having these Mexican roots,” Prendez said.

He cites American cultural staples like Star Wars and the Rockabilly style as influences of his art—which he’s dubbed “Mexican Americana,’’ an appropriate title, as Prendez describes the art of Norman Rockwell as a major influence in his work.

“I love Rockwell. I love his style. He was actually pretty progressive, and I think folks either don’t know that or it was erased from him. But he did some really great work revolving around the Civil Rights Movement. But Norman Rockwell has kind of really been hi-jacked—his work at least—by the right of this idealized American life that we want back,” Prendez said.

Prendez continued to say Rockwell’s depictions of mid-20th century American life are somewhat romanticized, but he still sees the humor and satire of these American snapshots.

“I take it for what it is— but sometimes cheese is good,” Prendez said.

Although Prendez has been painting for 10 years, his early days as an artist were marred by setbacks and discouragement; his art was criticized for being “gangster” or “too ethnic.”  Prendez described being crushed by that, and giving up art from age 19 until his 30s, when a class in college rekindled his love of painting. Although completely satisfied with where he’s at now, Prendez spoke with a touch of regret.

“If I didn’t let those people crush my soul, how good would I be with an extra ten years of practice?” Prendez said.

His art was brought to Boise State by associate professor Maria Alicia Garza of the World Languages Department after she met him at a National Association for the Latino Arts and Cultures Institute Conference in San Antonio.

“I saw his art and just thought it was quite unique in comparison to the other Chicano-Mexican-American-Latinx artists,” Garza said. “He does what we theoretically call revisionism, and it’s part of rasquache (kitsch)—art.” According to Garza, rasquache is a Chicano art form in which culturally popular items like altars, low-riders and tattoos are aesthetically reimagined.

“I deal with a lot of cultural triggers,” Prendez said.

According to him, his subject matter can elicit memories or emotions on a cultural basis for some viewers, himself included. “It’s L.A. It’s Seattle. It’s me.”

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