Q&A with Muralist Leticia Tanguma

Q&A with Muralist Leticia Tanguma

It is through monthly partnerships with artists that CelebrARTE really shines. It is exciting to me to be able to scour Denver’s creative community for the next maestro. As it turns out, this month’s artist, Leticia Tanguma, was hidden right under my nose–her other work is as a security guard for the DAM. You are probably familiar with her artwork. She has assisted her father on several projects, including murals at Denver International Airport. I asked her to tell us more about herself, her artwork, and her inspirations.

Madalena Salazar: What made you become an artist and how did you choose your medium?

Leticia Tanguma: I've loved to write and draw all my life. I've done other things in my life—but I believe I have to be an artist—I just am—and there's nothing I can do to change it. I've learned from my father, muralist Leo Tanguma, and remember helping him with murals when I was as young as seven years old. I work in several mediums, but right now my main focus is painting the Repainting the Future Community Mural Project. Like traditional storytelling, the legacy of mural painting is our way of passing our people's stories down to the next generation.

MS: Tell us more about your work. What inspires it?

LT: My art has been inspired in part by my love for my Chicana, Mexican, and Cuahuilteco indigenous culture and heritage. I see my people's struggles, joys, and triumphs both here in the United States and in Mexico. I also see the importance of acceptance of a diversity of people - to see our beauty and humanity despite our different races or lifestyles. I try to reflect this in my art. I have also been influenced by my father, Leo, and the Mexican mural master David Alfaro Siqueiros who painted about social consciousness and the masses. Even more, everyday people, especially children, who have shared their stories of abuse and survival, teach and inspire me do this art.

MS: What are you working on now?

LT: I was invited by a Regis University peace and justice studies major to do this project about domestic violence. I myself am a survivor, and have met many other survivors, so it was important to me to take the invitation. I have been working with various organizations and individuals to create the imagery, which calls for an end to violence in the home, in the schools, on the streets, and in the world. It has very graphic images based on many of the participants' lives, but also images of hope.

At least 20 people, including survivors and Regis University students, have worked on the Repainting the Future project with me. We’ll be touring the sculptural, free-standing mural throughout the community. So far we've toured it at the DAM, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, Earthlinks, and at RedLine Art Gallery. I'll bring part of the mural to CelebrARTE, where we are inviting visitors to create symbols of hope to add to the mural. It is still as a work in progress, and will be at the Regis University library until the end of March where CelebrARTE visitors will be able to see how their work will be incorporated into the entire mural.

See the video below that Leticia plans to play while she works in the taller.

Madalena Salazar is the Latino cultural programs coordinator in the education department at the Denver Art Museum. Madalena has been at the DAM since 2011 and her favorite artwork that has been on view here is Mud Woman Rolls On. This piece reminds her of home, family, and community and serves as inspiration for her practice as a museum educator at the DAM.

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