- About the Artist:María Cristina Tavera
María Cristina "Tina" Tavera is a Latinx artist, independent curator, and activist influenced by her transnational upbringing between Minnesota and Mexico. Tavera says her experience growing up with a mother from Michóacan, Mexico, and her Irish father from Saint Paul, Minnesota, greatly influenced her professional and artistic pursuits. Traveling between the countries to be with her extended family, artists, and artisans in Mexico City developed into a fascination with Mexican culture and traditions which continues to impact her art.
Some of her work draws from a long history of relief prints from Mexico, such as Guadalupe Posada's late nineteenth-century graphic broadsides and satiric illustrations revealing scandalous legends as well as news events. She incorporates contemporary tales told and retold that can potentially evolve to become legendary lore. Legends are not reliant on the stories' veracity but instead circulate to share historical phenomena, to explain the supernatural, or to provide cautionary narratives.
Upon analyzing the storylines, her artwork began to question cultural and gender roles in the tales and in her own life. As art historian Jamie Ratliff observed, "Tavera is an artist who creates complex compositions with historical and contemporary images to investigate constructions of race, ethnicity, gender, national, and cultural identities. The visual imagery is appropriated from Latin American legends, commercial packaging, the media, politics, comics, maps, currency, personal photographs, graffiti, and games. Her visual vocabulary is created by layering together clever bilingual plays on meaning. Tavera's art is often humorous and yet simultaneously confronts the dark legacy and pervasive effects of colonialism and racism in the Americas."
Tavera's recent solo exhibitions Reconfiguring Casta, Un-Typing Casta, and Tell and Retell are site-specific installations combining prints and paintings. Her artwork is a commentary on the historical genre of casta paintings from the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century colonial system: these were charts created to portray a hierarchical system of social classifications based on mixed ethno-racial heritage and status achieved. Tavera re-interprets these by blending historical and present-day images to question societal constructs of racial categorization of Latinx identity in the United States. The typological concepts of racial identity are not meant to define how people should be classified, but instead to explore how people of the Latin American diaspora express their own identity.
In another series, titled Latinx Migration, the artwork becomes more personal and reflects her bilingual, bicultural experiences from continual movement back and forth between Mexico and the United States. The words and images address immigration laws and judicial procedures, transportation, longing caused by separation, and cultural relativism. The iconography [End Page 113] and language reflect how the Latinx culture evolves to become blended and transforms over time.
Tavera has an MA in public affairs–leadership in the arts from the University of Minnesota Humphrey School. She has received fellowships and grants from the Archibald Bush Foundation, the Smithsonian Latino Museum Studies program, the Museum of Modern Art–New York, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC), and the Institute of Mexicans Abroad (IME). Tavera has exhibited and curated shows locally, nationally, and internationally. In 2016, as an independent curator, she organized the international exhibition Sus Voces: Women Printmakers in Mexico at the Highpoint Center for Printmaking in Minneapolis, and was co-curator for American Art: It's Complicated at the Minnesota Museum of American Art ("M"). Her artwork can be found in the collections of the Weisman Art Museum, the Fargo Plaines Museum, and the Tweed Museum of Art. Her writings include narrative for the book Frida Kahlo, published in Germany by Allgemeines Künsterlexikon (AKL), edited by Bénédicte Savoy, Andreas Beyer, and Wolf Tegethoff de Gruyter; an essay on Mexican print artists in the MIA collection "The Future Belongs to Those Who Draw from the Past," published by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; "Frida Kahlo: Bibliography and Exhibition History," for the exhibition catalog (Walker Art Center, 2007), and the book Mexican Pulp Art (Feral House, 2007). [End Page 114]