The Cross-Cultural Center hosted SPIRIT, an art showcase featuring the work of Carmen Linares-Kalo, who is a muralist, artist, fourth-generation spiritualist and practitioner of the Uto Nahua Mexica/Aztec traditions on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019.
Based in San Diego, Linares-Kalo has painted since the early 1990s, but it was her experience growing up with her grandmother in Mexico that impacted her art style and shaped the spiritual and personal aspects of her work. She became an artist in her grandmother’s garden, the place where Linares-Kalo says “her true heart belongs.”
“Everything is heartfelt; I come from an oral tradition,” Linares-Kalo said, explaining the delicacy behind each piece she creates. Describing herself as “guarded” about her work, Linares-Kalo was reluctant to showcase her art somewhere as public as an open university campus.
However, Linares-Kalo was encouraged to bring her art by fellow peers at the CCC. Her long bond with the university and the CCC also swayed her, as these spaces have allowed her to grow as both a UC San Diego staff member and as a person.
The center has become a space for Linares-Kalo to think, create, and be herself. In 1992, she performed her first blessing on the grounds of what used to be Price Center, the facility the CCC calls home.
Linares-Kalo also recognizes that the land the university is housed on is sacred, belonging to the Kumeyaay Tribe that once lived there before it was dispossessed. For those reasons, Linares-Kalo feels comfortable showcasing her work on campus, as the sacred ground holds meaning that aligns with her art’s inspiration.
“I wouldn’t just do it anywhere,” she said.
A number of art prints and over 20 paintings and sculptures were displayed at the reception in the CCC Artspace, with some of the pieces available for purchase. Certain paintings were priceless, with Linares-Kalo believing that some could not be sold out of respect.
One of these paintings was “Xochiquetzal,” named after the Aztec goddess of love. The inspiration came from the September 2014 mass kidnapping in Iguala, where 43 male students hoping to become teachers were abducted from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in Guerrero, Mexico. She was involved with a project that brought together 43 artists for each of the students that were kidnapped. As a sponsor of one of the students, she donated her paintings to support the parents of the student she sponsored and the rebuilding of the school.
Shortly after in the spring, Linares-Kalo began to paint “Xochiquetzal.” While painting, Linares-Kalo’s granddaughter asked about the student and the events that occurred in Iguala. She wanted to keep the 43 students guarded in Xochiquetzal’s carriage and it prompted Linares-Kalo to paint “43” in the goddess’s carriage. Linares-Kalo considers the carriage a safe space for Ayotzinapa’s missing students.
Because it was a family effort, “Xochiquetzal” will not be up for sale. However, every piece in the showcase has Linares-Kalo’s care and attention to detail.
“A lot of the work […] here belongs to different seasons, different ceremonies,” she said. “They have different prayers. They have different meanings.”
Linares-Kalo stated that 100 percent of the proceeds from the event’s sales will be used to support the CCC and the Intertribal Resource Center, two campus community centers that she works with closely.
“It’s a huge honor to hold and share my little ceremonies in this space with everybody […] and I’m very happy to share those with you,” she said.
Linares-Kalo’s artwork can be viewed at the CCC ArtSpace on the second floor of Price Center until the second week of Winter Quarter 2020.
Photos by Irvin Yang.