- InterventionsAn Interview with David Campos and Maceo Montoya
Early twentieth-century maverick creator, Guillaume Apollinaire, famously declared, "l'esprit nouveau et les poetes." With extraordinary collaborations between visual crafters and wordsmiths—Picasso and Max Jacob (Saint Matorel ), Ginsburg and Francesco Clemente (The White Shroud ), Norma Cantú and Marta Sánchez (Transcendental Train Yard ), for instance—I emphatically declare: the vitality of the poetic-arts is Latinx hybrid modal co-creations. David Campos and Maceo Montoya are powerful testament to this fact. In American Quasar (2021), they co-create to intervene, agitate, and make new our perception, thought, and feeling concerning Latinx experiences and lives. Together, they explode prejudices and assumptions about what it means to be Latinx in the US.
Maceo and David are, of course, extraordinary creators in their own right. Maceo is an award-winning author of numerous books of fiction, including recently You Must Fight Them (2015) and his graphic nonfiction, Chicano Movement for Beginners (2016). He is an internationally recognized artist (painting, drawing, and print), an associate professor at UC Davis, and member of the community-based arts organization, Taller Arte del Nuevo Amanecer (TANA). David Campos won the 2014 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize for Furious Dusk and his poetry appears in numerous reviews, including American Poetry Review, Boxcar Poetry Review, and Miramar. He teaches at Fresno City College.
I had the great pleasure and honor of learning from Maceo and David and the journeys that brought them to the creating of hybrid modal poetic-acts that open our minds to issues of trauma, violence, and the Latinx self.
You both have had carved different paths to become the creator-makers you are today. Might you share a snapshot of your respective journeys?
I can start. I was raised in a Chicano activist and artist family. I was surrounded by the idea that art could change the world. While there were moments when I resisted taking this path—for years I was certain I was going to be a lawyer—I always found ways of seeking out art-related activities. Throughout school, I did illustrations for student publications. In college, I used travel fellowships to create a body of artwork. I double-majored in History and Ethnicity, Race, and Migration, and while I loved what I was studying, I found the assignments dry. I was always thinking about how I could take what I was learning and express it in a different way. I'd sometimes ask professors if I could turn in a drawing instead of a reading response. In fact, for my senior history thesis I created a series of charcoal drawings to accompany the essay. I wrote about the debate over revolutionary art in Mexico, focusing in particular on David Alfaro Siqueiros, one of the great muralists, and Rufino Tamayo, who firmly believed in art for art's sake. The two men hated each other. In their sixties, they got into a fistfight, which I used as my entry into their different perspectives on the role of art. I was fascinated by Siqueiros's equal commitment to his art and to political struggle, which he saw as inseparable. It was also in my senior year that I painted a mural on campus. At the end of each day I didn't want to go home. I just wanted to keep painting. I couldn't sleep at night—I was so excited to get out there and start painting again. I knew that what I was feeling was rare, and that I had to follow that feeling. It was then that I started to see myself as an artist.
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My journey's very different. I went to a magnet school. I thought pursuing business was the way to succeed: to earn a living and grow a family. But I was bored, so I acted up. I was kicked out. So, I went to Fresno High where I was exposed to competitive speech and debate; I needed extra credits because I'd messed up so much. The teacher was amazing, encouraging...