“Sovereignty still struggles to control the body.” Delilah Montoya’s definitions of sovereignty addresses bloodlines and genetic origin…unlike the term that refers to nation states with jurisdictional borders. Delilah recognizes the 17th/18th century Spanish and Portugese practice of systematizing and classify the hierarchies of races and ethnicity with portrait paintings using her new book of recent photos “Contemporary Casta Portraiture: Nuestra Calidad” (Calidad = pure blood or status).
Instead she photographs families she knows from New Mexico and Texas and pairs them with the results of DNA test to determine their biological origin. Her book exposes how all humans are a mixture of different ethnicities and backgrounds. Considering that the current times we live where the sentiment of “blood and soil” has becoming a frequent refrain, this is noteworthy art project. Her photo book and her process becomes symbolic of the thesis behind the work. “Casta Portraiture” is a “hybrid” collaboration between the artist and the families portrayed with the use of digital technology and bio-sciences. Our conversation went further into the notions of “passing” (see Rachel Dolezal). In Delilah’s opinion, Doleza “passing” as black (stealing or gaining agency) denied an African American that same agency. Talked about the Badanius Manuscript (the first herbal medical book made in the Americas, authored by two Aztecs); and learned of the cultural theorist Homi H. Bhaba and his ideas of how people used mimicry, ambiguity and hybridity to create new identities in the New World.
Felix E Salinas (87 yrs), my father’s long time law partner, came so see what I was doing. I’ve talked with him before about this type of art making and art practice. He didn’t understand at first and seemed skeptical. Now he’s starting to understand more how the law office fits with the art. After all he still practices there, showing up 5 days a week. It helps to visualize what the work means. Interestingly he put together LOCCA with its mission and how circumstances, the events in my life precipitated my move back here and affected its purpose. “It’s unfortunate they died because of their health that you decide to move here and this started for you another journey. You go through hardships, and maybe it was meant to be, in order to accomplish what you are doing.”