Artist explores Mexican-American identity through exhibit

Juventino Aranda incorporates social commentary into his art



Juventino Aranda installs his sculpture Y Tu’, Ni Me Miras in the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

PUNEET BSANTI, Deputy news editor

The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art will launch a soft opening of Washington state artist Juventino Aranda’s exhibition, “Esperé Mucho Tiempo Pa Ver” (I Have Waited a Long Time to See), on from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Aug. 23. 

Aranda’s work consists of pieces that express his background as a person of color, coming from a Mexican background while living in the U.S.

“The constant narrative in my work is that not feeling, not feeling like I can ascribe to one cultural category or the other and also at the same time not fully being accepted,” Aranda said. 

Born and raised in Walla Walla, Aranda discovered his love for art in a philosophy class at Eastern Washington University, where he later received his bachelor’s degree in fine arts. He was a junior and undeclared for his major when his professor caught him drawing sketches in his sketchbook during class.

“The professor startled me and asked me what I was working on and, I was like, quick to close the book and they said no, no that’s really interesting, let’s have a conversation. Right then and there, after about three years being an undeclared major, that professor traded me a final paper for the ideas in my sketchbooks,” Aranda said. 

Ryan Hardesty, executive director of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, said he became aware of Aranda’s work over a decade ago when he was working on his bachelor’s degree in fine arts at EWU. At the time, Hardesty was working for the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in Spokane. 

“He had been included in the exhibition that we were planning, and I think, at that moment, I just recognized a still relatively young artist that was really gonna excel,” Hardesty said. “He kind of had all the right ingredients. He was kind of hyper-smart, very intelligent, very well knowledgeable of his sources and his references.”

Since then, Hardesty said he supported Aranda by nominating him for various awards and wanting to see him get the opportunities that he deserves. When Hardesty became director of the museum, he knew at some point there would be an opportunity to offer Aranda an exhibition. 

“Really, once I arrived at WSU, Juventino and I started talking about a future exhibition. That was six years ago, and now here we are today,” he said. 

Those who visit the exhibition when it opens will see different types of work created by Aranda, whether it is a social commentary or a piece relating to his background. 

“All my work is always a response to now, what is happening now, and I don’t think that I’m the only artist that works in that manner,” Aranda said. “We are essentially record keepers and documenters of the time, of the present and maybe even the past and for telling the future.” 

Aranda’s pieces have unique attributes, such as Pendleton wool incorporated into the piece or is the main part of the piece. He said the Pendleton wool represents being born in one place, migrating, being deemed not worthy enough then being sent back to one’s origins. He uses textiles to celebrate cultures that are often whitewashed despite being the foundation of society. 

“So much of Juventino’s art is about his identity, kind of at a crossroads of Mexico and American, trying to delineate how he can feel a sense of home here in this country, the country in which he was born but yet there is still a feeling of foreignness for him,” Hardesty said. “I hope that students can kind of think of that as well.” 

Although the soft opening of “Esperé Mucho Tiempo Pa Ver” (I Have Waited a Long Time to See) will be on Aug. 23, there will be a grand opening Oct. 7, featuring a live-streamed panel with Aranda.