John Jota Leaños

Mi Tierra Artist John Jota Leaños

Leaños' Work Is on View through Oct. 22, 2017

John Jota Leaños is one of the 13 artists whose work is on view in Mi Tierra: Contemporary Artists Explore Place.

How does one discover histories that are largely unknown and mostly misunderstood?

During the late twentieth century, sociologists promoted the concept of decolonization, the process of undoing power and economic structures put in place by colonialists. In the United States, decolonization has meant asserting Chicano and indigenous heritage that recasts Afro-Indian histories and challenges European-based dominant narratives.

John Jota Leaños combines cultural excavation and artmaking to decipher unwritten histories, which he subsequently makes into both fiction and non-fiction animations. Of Mexican-Italian-Native American descent, he identifies himself as part of a tribe he calls “Mexitaliano Xicangringo Güeros” or “Los Mixtupos.” Leaños strives to investigate and reveal the various social, political, and economic injustices that Chicanos face on a daily basis.

"For Destinies Manifest (a 7-minute digital animation) the characters are specters rather than embodied figures to show and illustrate resistance—Native resistance, mestizo resistance—and also adaptability, how people lived before “American progress” came," Leaños said.

John Jota Leaños, Destinies Manifest, 2017. Digital animation with sound, 7 minutes. © John Jota Leaños
John Jota Leaños, Destinies Manifest, 2017. Digital animation with sound, 7 minutes. © John Jota Leaños

Carleen Brice is content manager in the marketing department at the Denver Art Museum. Carleen has been at the DAM since 2013. Her favorite painting in Jordan Casteel: Returning the Gaze is called Lean.