Before he passed away in 2015, Jesús Estrada-Pérez — a PhD Candidate in American Studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities — wrote a dissertation entitled “Decolonial Fantasies: Gay Chicano Art and the Practice of Queer Utopian World-Making.” In it he examined how gay Chicanos living in the greater Los Angeles area used art to challenge typical representations of their racial and sexual identities. Now the artwork that Estrada-Pérez analyzed in that dissertation is on display for all to see as an exhibition of gay Chicano art.
Titled Remembrance Gay Chicano Art, the exhibit is on display at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities’ Quarter Gallery through May 13, 2017. Honoring the life and work of Estrada-Pérez, it features artwork from a half-dozen gay Chicanos, exploring the deep themes of loss and resiliency. (Those artists include Much of the work is dedicated to the remembrance of family and friends who have passed, often under violent means. As the exhibit’s curatorial statement presents, “Remembrance demonstrates how art can be used as a survival strategy to overcome structural oppression.”
In his dissertation, Estrada-Pérez made the argument that this gay Chicano art creates “decolonial fantasies.” That was the term he came up with to define these marginalized men’s presentations of their race and sexuality, “as a political gesture that not only critiques popular formations but also provides alternatives to them.” Eschewing the most common conceptions of their race and sexuality, these men used art to redefine themselves and their experiences.
If nothing else, this collection of gay Chicano art is proof that there is no more political tool than art itself. It challenges, and occasionally it forces the individual to re-examine his place in the world. Remembrance Gay Chicano Art does exactly that for queer men of color, allowing them to renegotiate their own place in society.