Juan Gomez: Beautiful Blood/Sangre Hermosa
Tied, tangled, and stitched into existence, the soft sculptures of Long Beach-based artist Juan Gomez honor his ancestors and his immediate family’s immigration experiences, trials, and tribulations. Beautiful Blood/Sangre Hermosa opens in the Community Gallery of Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum September 6. The mixed media works exhibited express heartfelt kinship, as Gomez pays homage to his family members’ individuality, labor, and tenacity through their journeys into the United States.
My art practice keeps me engaged with my culture and visualizes my ancestors’ trek through life, building a blueprint to reference as I walk through mine.
The intertwined works in Beautiful Blood/Sangre Hermosa tell tales of familial traditions through physicality. Intentionally selected materials are imbued with personal meaning, weaving individual stories into works of art. Gomez shares, “This body of work creates family heirlooms that make the experiences of my parents Juan Gomez and Maria Gomez physically present. As memories become a less clear over time, my work continues my family’s tradition of sharing oral histories in a tangible way.” The artist’s utilization of rope as his primary material represents the ranching life of his ancestors in Zacatecas, Mexico and references his father’s skilled use of knots to secure heavy loads in his work as a trucker. Through his use binding ties and fabric, Gomez recognizes the labor of his mother, who stayed at home, took care of the children, and spent many hours mending torn clothing. The way his mother sewed garments to restore damaged cloth mirrored her intricate strategies to repair social structures to closely bind the family together as a whole.
Gomez’s sculptures signify the injuries visited upon his hardworking family. The artist has conveyed that his work “honors family sacrifices while it helps me cope with trauma.” Certain materials act like medical gauze used for wound dressings. Delicate cotton rounds incorporated into works are encased in protective netting to help heal the generational scars. He shared in his artist statement: “These structures are keeper of memories, they hold a lineage of struggle, prosperity, and triumphs.” In acknowledging his present position, Gomez emphasizes the opportunity he has been given to flourish in the United States and frames his family’s sacrifices within gratitude.
About the Artist
Juan M. Gomez was born in Santa Ana in 1982. He is the third of five children. His parents emigrated from Zacatecas in the 1960s to seek a better life, however, they retained close ties to family back home. During his childhood, his parents would take the children back to the state of Zacatecas to visit relatives, experience rural life, and hear the family stories. In the small, predominantly agricultural villages of north-central Mexico where they stayed, Gomez was drawn to crumbling adobe structures, ancient spaces where he could hear the sounds of the past. Gomez is a multidisciplinary artist who received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drawing and Painting from California State University Fullerton. While his family ultimately encouraged him to pursue his dream to be an artist, they instilled in him the importance of hard work and finding secure employment. Gomez supported his studies by becoming a library paraprofessional in Santa Ana.
Exhibition installation photograph of Juan Gomez: Beautiful Blood/Sangre Hermosa by Tatiana Mata.