There’s a grand tradition of artists using their cultural experiences to inform their work. Young Latinx artists are finding inspiration in their cultural heritage and creating murals, paintings and performances that encapsulate their experiences. We’re highlighting three artists whose work is inspired by their Latinx roots, whether it’s a connection with the Rio Grande River or an interest in Ecuadorian culture. Take a look at their work and see how their roots have influenced them.
Layqa Nuna Yawar is a muralist who uses the streets as his canvas. Born in Ecuador and based out of Newark, NJ, LNY describes himself as a “migrant latinx artist, muralist, organizer, curator, and agitator.”
LNY’s paintings and murals are very much informed by his cross-cultural background. He explores injustice, racism, and xenophobia through art.
“I am carving out spaces for Latinx to talk about the issues we care about, and make our face public,” LNY said.
LNY grew up in a working-class family in Cuenca, Ecuador, which itself has a vibrant street art scene. He watched as murals were painted in his hometown amid political and economic struggle. Now, in his neighborhood of Newark and in other cities around the world, LNY uses his art as a way to connect with the communities around him.
“When I go into a community to make a piece of art, I’m always trying to reflect that community,” he said. “I don’t just go in and point fingers. I do research and interview people who live there. It becomes almost journalistic.”
LNY’s connection to his own heritage has evolved throughout his career. The name Layqa Nuna Yawar is derived from Quechua, a language spoken by indigenous peoples of South America. He used to go by Lunar New Year, until a trip through Latin America changed his perspective.
“While I was traveling I felt like I was moving through borders and entering a new phase,” he said. “It simply stands for: someone who speaks truth.”
Natalia Anciso, visual artist
Natalia Anciso is an Oakland-based visual artist whose work focuses heavily on the Texas Borderlands. Anciso, a “Chicana-Tejana,” was born and raised in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Her art tells the story of life on the Texas-Mexico border.
Anciso’s series Pinches Rinches draws on her own experience as a fifth-generation Tejana to explore the lost history of her family and ancestors.
The Pinches Rinches series recontextualizes a history along the border that has been lost,” she explained to Galería de la Raza. “Drawing from both historical references and stories of my own family, I give testimony and retell the forgotten history of my native borderlands, the Rio Grande Valley.”
Nani Chacon, painter
Nani Chacon got an early, if untraditional, start in the art world. At the age of 15, Chacon started doing graffiti art growing up in Arizona and New Mexico. After ten years of working in the graffiti scene, the Chicana and Navajo artist began to explore new mediums.
One of her recent murals, “Agua es Vida,” (pictured above) is now on display at the El Paso Museum of Art. The mural relates to Chacon’s experience growing up near the Rio Grande River.
“This river has sustained generations of indigenous people from Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico acting as a important life force for irrigation and trade route to the north,” Chacon wrote. “This mural honors our Relationship with water with the understanding that it is water that gives us life.”
These are just a few of the many incredible modern Latinx artists whose heritage informs their work. Sprint and Fusion believe in joining together with UNA VOZ to celebrate one’s heritage all year round.