I have a friend who is a great graffiti artist. His name is Adam Eron Welch. He promotes a style of art called gutter art or gutter gallery, in San Diego. He uses things he finds as his canvas and draws/paints people on these found canvases and to boot, they are free for the finding. I luv this movement. We were messaging back and forth having a discussion and I mentioned rasquache arte.
As a child, I recall my family using this term, rasquache. For some odd reason, I liked the sound of the word, regardless of what it meant.
The only term, of some similarity in the English language, that remotely comes to mind is the slang word for the state of being “ghetto,” or tacky!
Rasquache is a Spanish term, of Nahuatl origin, which originally had a negative connotation in Mexico as being an attitude that was lower class or impoverished, bad taste. In the negative sense it refers to a social status or behavior.
This definition was later reversed by the Chicano movement, thank goodness, which transformed the have-not sensibility into a style, “Rasquachismo.”
Whether it’s amateur home renovation, transforming a shack into a neighbourhood bar, or creating homegrown conjunto music.
Where clutter in your yard becomes art. (This is not hoarding). Since there is order. Such as reusing utensils, disposed & recycled everyday materials, and finding use for what is otherwise often perceived as non-valuable. Beyond being simply frugal, rasquache also involves inventing new uses for conventional objects. This often means giving a new function to something that would conventionally be considered broken or useless. Mexicans were re-cycling, re-purposing, re-using, re-fixing before it was fashionable; out of necessity.
Often these artists in the Rasquachismo movement used the most basic, simplest, quickest, and crudest means necessary to create desired expressions, in essence, creating the most from the least. Making the most with the least is a statement of irreverence and is both defiant and inventive.
Rasquache is when you make or repair things with whatever you have at hand. You don’t go to Home Depot. If you have a hole in your wall, you hang a plate over it. Or you fix your fence with some rope, my Abuelito used an old dog lease to keep a gate closed. That’s rasquache.
“There are some very tangible (material) qualities of culture that are often overlooked either because their commonplace nature allows us to take them for granted or because the objects and artifacts are so out of the ordinary that untrained eyes may fail or refuse to recognize how these constitute the fabric of our daily lived experiences and may even shape entire ways of life in a largely unnoticed world.
As I look back at my own life, it has been surrounded with rasquache art. From my Abuelito’s DIY repairs. Mi Abuelito, Higniio was like the “King of Rasquachismo.” From the yards of my childhood vecinos (neighbors) to my pre-college days while being introduced to El Teatro Campesino by Luis Valdez.
Where I experienced live street Teatro and the “actos,” 15-minute sketches or skits based on the improvisation.
During college days at Sacramento State I hung out with the RCAF, Royal Chicano Art Force. I was exposed and very influenced by flying jalapeño art, tortilla art, silkscreen movimiento posters, t-shirts, and Mexican calendario graphics. I was so Blessed to have experienced and lived that time period.
All of these influences have inspired me to “play.” I recall a time I played with “Hubcap Arte.” When I hot glued strings of beads, rocks, sea glass, buttons and anything I found on to rescue hubcaps. Once I had a cool metal stool, I painted it and covered the top with beer bottle caps. I also have made colorful purses or storage boxes out of old cigar boxes. Another favorite medium has been mosaic and quilting; I see similarities in both. You cut small pieces and reassemble.
My favorite medium is mixed media, it allows me to “get into it” by covering my canvas with newspaper, paper towels and re-cycled tissue with my decoupage medium. I then start layering my textured canvas. I use pop culture discards, remnants of party materials, jewelry, kitchenware, coins, fabric, photos, toiletries, buttons, old wood, in combined and recombined arrangements that reflect a shattered glamour. My works are an intimate story.
So go out and have fun making art.
It has taken a long time to realize the gifts my Lord has presented me; I view all of my experiences as treasures of my childhood. Thank you Lord.