Celeste De Luna / Harlingen, TX, USA
Celeste De Luna is a printmaker from the lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. “A true daughter of the borderlands, her art celebrates the quotidian and the exceptional on the border,” writes Ines Hernandez-Avila. De Luna continues to explore the geo-political aspects of post-911 militarization of her environment such as border walls, drones, checkpoints, and bridges. Much of her work is centered on the border experiences of mixed documentation status communities. Her iconography frequently shows razor wire, fences, bridges, and “anchor babies”.
De Luna is a self-taught printmaker whose work includes large-scale woodcuts and fabric installation. Her political subject matter is social commentary with a feminine sensibility. In addition to her studio practice of creating large-scale relief prints, quilts, and installation, De Luna works in collaboration with community in Brownsville, Texas as a cofounder of the socially engaged arts collaborative Las Imaginistas. Las Imaginistas are recipients of a 2017 Artplace America Creative Placemaking grant and 2018 A Blade of Grass Fellows. Currently, De Luna is managing her print shop, Metzli Press, creating curriculum for a community printmaking collaborative, Taller de Permiso, (Permission Workshop) and is a lecturer at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and lives with her family in Harlingen, Texas.
My work is a tool to understand and deconstruct oppressive paradigms in my physical/spiritual/psychic environment. I explore the complexity of relationships of borderland people and landscape. Common themes in my work include migrant/border experiences of women, children, families, Tejas landscape, the spiritual struggle of conflicting identities, and “survivor’s guilt”. Common iconography frequently features razor wire, fences, bridges, and anchor babies. By mapping geopolitical aspects of my environment, I understand myself better. Post-911 militarization of my homeland has been the catalyst of “conocimiento” for me, a concept written about by Xicana lesbian thinker Gloria Anzaldua. Sometimes, I use my imagination to create narratives in which I use my family and myself as characters. My borderland narratives take on a personal and feminist viewpoint that contradicts superficial “border violence” stereotypes. I work in large-scale relief prints on fabric, usually thrift store fabrics with a history and create art quilts of my work. By using combining the traditionally masculine medium of large-scale relief with the traditionally feminine art of sewing and domestic fabrics I strive to make a connection with content and form that the “militarized violent border” is home to women, children, and families and also a domestic space, home.
My time as a working artist and mother was invaluable to me in terms of research, time to work, and integrating my family and art lives. As an artist who has a strong link to the transformative place known as the border, it was interesting to note the connections and contrasts between the two places. I came to New Mexico to learn about sanctuary and here I found it. I interviewed, met and spoke casually with many wonderful people who helped create a picture of a sanctuary city for me. I came to understand what sanctuary cities looked like, felt like, and sounded like. This topic was of strong interest to me as an artist who is interested in border issues and who doesn’t live in a region or state that holds much value in the concept of sanctuary for religious or moral purposes. I was very moved learning about the Quakers, the Sanctuary movement, and the spiritual tension related to how we treat our fellow man. This spiritual tension was something I had not encountered before. I’m very much indebted to my friend the poet Demetria Martinez who helped me with this endeavor and insight with her own personal experiences and introductions. This research, experiences, sketches will be the basis for a new body of work.