State of Utah Alice Merrill Horne Art Collection


Acrylic on canvas

24 x 30

Utah Division of Multicul...



Copyright All Years. Utah Division of Arts & Museums. All Rights Reserved.

View all works by: Ruby Chacon

I come from a Mexican/Chicano family who migrated from New Mexico to Utah in search of work starting with my great grandparents. I have a mixed heritage: Tewa Pueblo, Apache and Basque/Spanish, however, growing up I thought we were immigrants from Mexico. It wasn’t until I graduated from college when I went to Southern Utah (Monticello) to ask my grandpa Cosme Chacón about our family history that I discovered the border crossed us. The devastating impact the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo had on my family created a cycle of disempowerment for generations that pushed many of us outside the margins of an exclusive system of justice.

In my immediate family, I was the first to graduate high school of six siblings and parents. Our stories became absent and/or redefined by fear and stereotypes and to get through school it felt like turning your back on your own culture. The counter narrative my grandfather gave me that my formal educative years overlooked saved my spirit and in turn, planted me firmly on the ground in a homeland I often felt like I didn’t belong. The oral traditions of my family and culture gave me my voice as an artist.

This experience has led me to paths in creating spaces of belonging either through the non profit I co founded, Mestizo Institute of Culture and Arts (MICA) located on SLC’s westside, and through community engaged murals and paintings I create to inform a counter narrative of empowerment. “Aztlan” is a piece I painted of my grand nephew Lorenzo Marquez who built this lowrider bike with his father. Growing up I was surrounded by and proud of my Chicana style influenced by the Pachuco era of zootsuits and lowriders. However, this artistic expression was feared by many. To go to college meant changing a little of who you are in order not to be feared. The zootsuit riots and the negative publicity it received by the media demonized many Mexican/Chicano youth and marked a stain of fear for future generations (like my siblings and I) who celebrated our Chicano heritage.
“Aztlan” is my counter narrative to this fear.

I was influenced by the work of Gilbert “Magu” Lujan and the research of Patricia and Roberto Rodriguez. Pioneer Chicano artist Magu once said “During my formal educative years at the university I saw parallels of the barrio with the art terms we were learning. I began to realize that a lowrider is a sculpture, an altar is an
installation, and graffiti is calligraphy”. He continued his work with this spirit, “ My art intentions, over the years, have been to use Mesoamerican heritage as well as implementing current popular Art and cultural folk sources as the content substance to make Chicanarte “. Patricia and Roberto Rodriguez researched the location of “Aztlan”, home of the Mexikas. They found a map and description that pointed to Antelope Island. I painted my nephew with Antelope Island at a distance to celebrate and rediscover culture from a place of empowerment. It takes long hours of dedication and patience to build a bike the way my nephew built his “sculpture”. Through this piece I honor his commitment and celebrate that there are many cultures of Utah, including this one that my nephew celebrates and continues. Through my work, I hope to create a sense of belonging not only for my self but also for my family, community, and those in search of understanding.