The Art of Cheech
Earlier this year, comedian Cheech Marin tweeted an image of the painting An Afternoon in Meoqui by Wayne Alaniz Healy, co-founder of the renowned East Los Streetscapers mural collective in Los Angeles. “I just love the colors and the vibrancy and the thickness of the paint and the technique he used,” Marin, who owns the painting, explained. “It’s like Norman Rockwell meets Jackson Pollock. It’s very backyard and very avant-garde at the same time. It’s a painting that I always put in the kitchen of any house I’m living in. And I’m in the kitchen right now and I’m looking straight at it. It just jumps off the wall at you.”
Marin sounds less like a stoner and more like a scholar when he talks art. An inveterate collector—“baseball cards or matchbook covers or bottle caps or marbles or whatever”—he was inspired by the creative output of Carlos Almaraz, Frank Romero, Patssi Valdez, John Valadez, and Magú, and started amassing paintings by Chicano artists in 1985. He has been exhibiting pieces from “The Chicano Collection of Cheech Marin” at museums and galleries throughout the country since around 2000, and this is the final weekend to see selections on display at the Amarillo Museum of Art.
To fathom the show is to understand Marin’s definition of Chicano. “Chicano originally was a derogatory term used by Mexicans to other Mexicans living in this country,” he said. “The concept being that the Mexicans living in this country were no longer truly Mexicanos because they left. They were something less. They were smaller. They were Chicos. They were Chicanos. Little satellite Mexicans. And so after awhile they adopted it as a badge of pride. Yeah, we’re Chicanos. Y que?”
The Chicano civil rights movement in the sixties gave way to Chicano art, which in turn gave way to street art—one of the most popular forms of art today. “Chicano art is not a particular style like, say, Impressionism,” Marin said. “It’s an expression of community. You get the flavor—the sabor—of a community told from a myriad of different styles and viewpoints, whether it’s historical or humorous or gender-based or abstract. When you put all these viewpoints together you get the 360 of the landscape of the United States and the Latino, and especially Chicano, expression in it.”
This is evident in the Amarillo exhibition through pieces by Joe Peña of Corpus Christi, whose tiny paintings of “Mexican meats you grew up with as a kid” Marin likens to the works of Rembrandt and Francis Bacon. There is also Jacinto Guevara of San Antonio, with “intimate yet surreal” scenes of his neighborhood.
Though a collector by nature, this grouping has evolved Marin. He has become a torchbearer for a school of art he feels is underrepresented in the canon. “Chicano art is an American school of art,” he said. “It’s by definition American. It is as American as Ashcan School or Hudson River Valley School or Pop Art or any of those kinds of things. It’s just getting people to consider that something other than their own definition is valid.”
Amarillo Museum of Art, March 25-27, amarilloart.org
The Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival has the four basic food groups covered: barbecue, burgers, brunch, and booze. The four-day indulge-a-thon, now in its third year, seeks to solidify the city’s culinary reputation, with a little help from the Dallas food scene as well. The festival is divided into six separate ticketed events that range from comfort to fine food.
Unsurprisingly, the festivities begin with the BBQ Showdown, wherein top pitmasters will show off their smoked meats, including locals like rising star Travis Heim of Heim Barbecue, whose bacon burnt ends are already the stuff of legend, and Cousin’s Bar-B-Q, which came in at seventeen on Texas Monthly’s 2013 list “The 50 Best BBQ Joints . . . in the World!”
Night two’s Main Event ramps up the sophistication with top chefs putting twists on traditional fare. With more than one hundred wines, pairings are aplenty for dishes offered up by area restaurants including Bonnells, Fort Worth’s original farm-to-table restaurant; Ellerbe Fine Foods, a Bon Appétit favorite; and Pacific Table, one of the few places in town for righteous sushi.
Wake up and do it all over again at the Rise and Shine brunch, with all manner of eggs (Benedict, omelet, migas, huevos rancheros, breakfast tacos) plus warm delights from Funkytown Doughnuts and Pearl Snap Kolaches. At this point it’s advisable to go on a quick cleanse, because later in the evening is the Burgers, Brews & Blues event, during which it’s entirely possible that, while cramming a Swiss Pastry Shop burger made out of Akaushi beef down one’s throat, a gut could be busted.
Various locations, March 31-April 3, fortworthfoodandwinefestival.com
Look to the Sky
In the March issue of Texas Monthly, we questioned the merit of “Texas, Our Texas” as the state song and offered possible alternatives. Likely fill-ins included Ernest Tubb’s “Waltz Across Texas” and Bob Wills’s “New San Antonio Rose,” or even “One Day” by the Houston rap group UGK. But a big one that was left out is “Your Hand in Mine,” from the 2003 album The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place by the Austin instrumental rock band Explosions in the Sky.
The song is elegant but intense, with sparse guitar notes giving way to a flurry of many. It’s a highly unconventional choice on the surface, but consider its stats: The song features not one, not two, but three guitars (the official state musical instrument, of course); it was the inspiration for the theme to the unofficial state television show, Friday Night Lights; and the song was used by Ted Cruz in a video in which Governor Greg Abbott endorses the senator for president—that is until the band asked Cruz to take it down.
As the Texas Monthly article asserts, the citizens of Texas should decide on a new state song, and Explosions in the Sky will get their pitch in this Friday with two hometown shows—a matinee and evening set. It’s the beginning of their tour in support of a new work, The Wilderness, their first studio album in five years. It’s also a likely opportunity to play the future state song contender.
Paramount Theatre, March 25, 12 & 7 p.m., explosionsinthesky.com
Standing Her Ground
Women have increasingly taken on an active role in the military since World War I, when the Navy and Marines allowed some 10,000 females to enlist. But if military movies new and old are to be believed—American Sniper, Apocalypse Now, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Dirty Dozen, Full Metal Jacket, The Green Berets, The Hurt Locker, Patton, Platoon, Saving Private Ryan—women are nonexistent in matters of war. The best the silver screen has to offer in terms of portrayals of military women is probably Private Benjamin, the 1980 comedy starring Goldie Hawn.
For a dramatic turn on the female perspective on war, one must turn to the theater. In Grounded, the award-winning play by the University of Texas M.F.A. graduate George Brant, an F-16 fighter pilot’s surprise pregnancy calls for a reassignment from her jet to an Air Force trailer near Las Vegas, where she mans a drone targeting terrorists in Afghanistan as she adjusts to “normal” life. This one-woman play is performed by Elizabeth Bunch, an Alley Theatre actress whose resume includes playing Elizabeth Taylor in a reading of Cleo, the theater piece by Pulitzer Prize-winning Texas writer Lawrence Wright. During the first week of Grounded’s run, the Alley Theatre will offer a concurrent production by the Texas-based non-profit The Telling Project, in which Houston military veterans will take to the stage to convey personal stories of service.
Alley Theatre, March 25-April 17, alleytheatre.org
Following the fall 2015 release of her album Servant of Love, the Austin singer-songwriter Patty Griffin came to a startling realization: single women represent the largest voting group in the U.S., but not nearly enough of them are turning out at the polls because they feel disenfranchised. So Griffin teamed with fellow folkies Anaïs Mitchell and Sara Watkins (also the fiddler for Nickel Creek) and enlisted the League of Women Voters for the Use Your Voice Tour, which brings its message of inclusivity and empowerment to Dallas on Friday for its final Texas stop.
Granada Theater, March 25, 7 p.m., pattygriffin.com
The award-winning writer Sandra Cisneros, who pioneered Chicana literature with her novel The House on Mango Street, left her famed purple house in the King William district of San Antonio some five years ago for a one-window home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. But she will defy Thomas Wolfe’s mandate and return home to San Antonio this weekend for the Gemini Ink Autograph Series, celebrating her newest work, A House of My Own: Stories from My Life, a collection of essays and photographs spanning thirty years.
Palo Alto College, March 26, 7 p.m., sandracisneros.com