State Of The Art

Artist Ana Segovia Is Mexico's Contemporary Cowboy

The painter talks about the demystification of masculinity, the cowboy motif, and staying true to himself as an artist.


Most of us have freaked out over on-screen narratives at one point in time, perhaps shouting at the TV during an intense season finale, evoking a sensation similar to what die-hard sports fans experience when witnessing their team lose at the very last minute.

Film visuals, beyond stirring emotions, serve as a cultural mirror, shaping our attitudes, behaviors, and ideals, often blurring the line between fiction and reality, defining our perception of what is considered 'normal.' Yet, these portrayals can sometimes be limiting and detrimental to society. Few pause to reflect on how the film industry has shaped the mindsets of older generations. Thankfully, today's media is evolving, becoming more inclusive, partly driven by the rise of woke culture and the easy access to information.

Artist Ana Segovia explores the intersection between film visuals and societal norms. By reinterpreting traditional male figures like the cowboy, he challenges established norms through his art. With over 10 solo exhibitions across the US and Mexico, Segovia's work has graced prestigious venues such as the Denver Art Museum, Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil & Museo Tamayo in Mexico City.

His artistic approach involves translating black and white film stills into vibrant reinterpretations, with a focus on Mexico’s Golden Age cinema and Western genres. Segovia examines and deconstructs preconceived ideas about gender identity and the concept of masculinity through his art, and subsequently in his own life.

Dive into our conversation below.

Diego: How do you reconcile the relationship between film and painting in your work?

Ana: I grew up watching archives of the Mexican golden era of film, mainly because they were made by my great grandfather, he was one of the first modern film makers in Mexico, introduced the cinematographic Charro (traditional Mexican cowboy), and was one of the first directors to work with the ranchero comedy genre, starting with “Out on the Big Ranch (1936)”.

I began painting figuratively after I left art school in Chicago, when I encountered these black and white film stills and began translating them into paintings. At the beginning it was very bizarre because I first attempted to recreate what I thought the real colors would be, but when I did that the paintings failed. I went back to the drawing board and started to imagine and introduce color in a new, almost absurdist way. It was through interpreting the film stills, that I started developing a language around painting and figuration.

Diego: What led you to choose the Golden Age of Mexican cinema and Western (genre) films as sources of inspiration for your work?

Ana: Around the time I started painting charros and cowboys I was coming into terms with my own queerness and masculinity. I started to perform a very toxic masculinity, I thought that these misogynistic attitudes, that I was uncomfortable with, would somehow make me manlier. I quickly learned where these attitudes came from, the influence that the Mexican golden age of cinema as well as the western had on me growing up really was detrimental in my understanding of masculinity. These films cemented in our society misogynistic, racist, and classist ideals that are intricately linked to the conception of what it means to be a man, a woman, and everything in between. Through my research, I learned that these films give insight into our culture, and how our identities were crafted through the narrative device of filmmaking.

Painting the cowboy not as an individual, but more as a costume, a motif, or archetype really helped me understand that gender identity is performance. With this realization, I was able to dismantle and unlearn these oppressive hyper masculine attitudes. This led me to think, how could I reconcile my desire to embody the cowboy or the charro with my feminism and my queerness?

“ This led me to think, how could I reconcile my desire to embody the cowboy or the charro with my feminism and my queerness?”

Diego: Could you explain the techniques you use to demystify and reinterpret male figures such as 'the cowboy' or 'the torero' in your artworks?

Ana: The Charro, the torero, and the cowboy are traditionally represented in very solemn colors, and incidentally enough the color palette became symbolically important towards my work. When translating the black and white film stills, I began exaggerating the color palette with more vibrant and colorful tones, adding a queer and feminine aspect to these figures, and in that very sense demystifying that masculinity, and that seriousness adding an element of comedy, transgressing that very idea of what men conventionally wear.

I understood that employing these colors to traditional figures was radical when I brought these costumes to life for a video installation. Five of the six tailors that I went to were reluctant to produce the traditional charro custom in these colors (turquoise, pink, purple, orange) even though it was COVID, and they were desperate for work, they would not make the suits. It's incredibly absurd that color itself could be prohibited within a culture, and that's how I confirmed toxic masculinity, and patriarchy are still embedded in Mexican society, even in what we deem as traditional.

Diego: Can you tell us more about your book "It's Not What It Looks Like"?

Ana: “It's Not What It Looks Like” is a collaborative project with curator, and dear friend Aurélie Vandewynckele. It highlights my work from 2017 to 2022, presented non-chronologically, emphasizing recurring motifs and themes, including the vindication of gender performativity.

This ambitious book showcases personal sketches, artworks, and short essays by collaborators connected to both me and the work, enhancing its overall structure—I couldn't be more grateful.

“Always, always, always be true to yourself, resist and watch out for tokenism.”

Diego: What words of wisdom would you offer to fellow queer creatives on their artistic journeys?

Ana: Always, always, always be true to yourself, resist and watch out for tokenism. We are more than just labels, and the work that we make is important not only to society and our community, but also to the resistance against patriarchy; we should always be vigilant to not get absorbed by those structures themselves.

Special thanks to Kurimanzutto Gallery.

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