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Maria Cristina Tavera – Artist Statement & Bio

Artist Statement:

During the17th and early 18th century, the Spanish coined the term “Casta” to refer to the categorization of mixed ethno-racial heritage occurring during colonization. This complex caste system was created when whites (Spanish/españoles) began marrying and having children with non-whites (Indigenous and African ancestries) in the “New World.” The purpose was to define lineage pertaining to “purity of blood” intended for racial hierarchy. Paintings and charts were created to explain the different categories of race.

The installation questions societal constructs of racial categorization that continues to some degree today. The United States government struggles with identifying and quantifying those of Latin American descent. The Census tries to capture the information by classifying race and ethnicity as separate categories but is challenged on how to document those who are mixed. Terminology on how to define those of Latin American ancestry in the U.S. also varies greatly and can change depending on the region or the individual.

As a person of mixed race who considers herself Mexican-American or Latina, my interest is to explore the past concepts of Casta and the contemporary typological concepts of racial identity. My project is NOT meant to define how people should be classified, but instead to explore how people of Latin American diaspora express their own identity. My hope is that the work will inspire conversations about these historical references and what unifies Latinos today.

Artist Bio:

Maria Cristina Tavera, AKA “Tina” is an artist, curator, researcher, and advocate for equal access to opportunities. Her bilingual / bicultural upbringing between Mexico and Minnesota has greatly influenced her work experience, writing and visual art practice. The artwork focuses on issues related to race, gender, ethnicity and culture. Tavera has a Masters in Public Affairs- Leadership in the Arts from the University of Minnesota Humphrey School. She has received fellowships and scholarships from the Archibald Bush Foundation, the Smithsonian Latino Museum Studies program, the Museum of Modern Art-New York, and the Institute of Mexicans Abroad (IME). Tavera has exhibited locally and nationally including the National Mexican Museum, the Walker Art Center, the Weisman Art Museum and the Plaines Museum. Her work is in private and public collections such as the Weisman Art Museum and the Plaines Art Museum. Her writings have been published nationally and internationally by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, as well as a book titled, Mexican Pulp Art.