Ernesto Camacho is an artist native of The Bronx, NY, who has exhibited at various galleries in the New York City and Connecticut areas, and has won several awards including the prestigious “15th Annual Brio Award” from the Bronx Council on The Arts. Reviews of his paintings have appeared in newspapers and magazines such as the New York Times, Manhattan Arts International, and The Advocate & Greenwich Times. His work centers on the experiences of his people, Latinos, and their whereabouts in urban life. Ernesto’s lifelong fascination with New York has inspired him to do an ongoing series entitled, “Diaries of a City”. He is also interested in the ethnic origin of Latinos and especially Latinas, a powerful synergy of races and cultures that prompted his series “Somos Latinas.”
Where were you born and how did you become an artist?
I’m a Bronx native, raised during the 70’s when it was “burning down.” Those days left indelible impressions in my mind and heart that I cherish till to this day. Many of these memories included sounds of congas echoing off the project walls late into the summer evenings; riding mass transit to and from high school, exposing me to an evolution of graffiti on subway cars that resembled portable art galleries; snd the wonderful smells of our “comidas creoles de Puerto Rico” that permeated my native hallways.
My neighborhood was rich with Puerto Rican and African American culture that brought excitement into my young imagination. Although people spoke abusively about The Bronx during the seventies, I could only find good in my environment much like “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids”.
These memories; these cultures rich in history, art, food, and dance have influenced the way I paint with a papyri of never ending subject matter; a subject matter filled with affection & storytelling.
I love capturing these subjects by using dramatic light and darkness, with an abundance of refracted colors; exaggerating at times the intensity of the situation in an effort to steer the viewer ever closer to what I am conveying.
What is the power of Latinas?
The power of a Latina is her universal appeal. Because she’s the result of a mixture of all people who came to the Americas with the indigenous population, she comes in a beautiful array of complexions and textures that are solely hers. Add to this; the mixtures of food, music, art, and temperaments that have evolved for the last 500 years and what do you get? Humanity at its best!
What prompted you to work on Somos Latinas’ Transformation?
I’m always astounded when people generalize Latinos. A friend of mine is married to a Puerto Rican. He’s Negrito. Just the other day, he was speaking to someone in Spanish and her relative said to her, “Why is he speaking in Spanish?” My friend looked at her relative in amazement and said, “Because he’s Puerto Rican.” Her relative then said, “Really? But he’s black.”
Another friend of mine was surprised when we met a gentleman who was tall, green-eyed, and blanquito, only to find out he was Mexican. After we left, she mentioned that he didn’t look like a Mexican. I asked her, “What does a Mexican look like?” She said, “They’re usually small and brown.”
You can’t make this stuff up. I’m tired of people generalizing what a Spanish person should look like. My great-grandmother was Morenita. My great-grandfather was a Judío blanquito de España. They had 14 children, one being my grandmother. The whole family looked like one giant mondongo. We had every colored hue and textured hair along with different colored eyes. Mine came out Hazel like my grandmother’s. So that’s what I grew up accustomed too. As a Latino, I always associated Spanish people with a rainbow of beautiful colors.
As you become versed in the history of Latin America and all its little Islands, you understand very clearly why you cannot generalize what a person who speaks Spanish should look like. History has made them all inclusive.
So how do you define being Latino/Latina?
Latino/a (la teeno/a (plural-nos) “A fusion of different people from distant lands who came together with the indigenous populous thru a turbulent past, and blossomed into a new type of people made up of different hues, textured hairs, and colored eyes; all under the umbrella of one language, that is a Latino.”
One morning Rosie Perez on the View ranted and raved about how Latinos are living in denial. That’s when I finally decided, “That’s it! I have to do a painting that’s been on my mind and heart for the last couple of years; a painting that shows the evolution and beauty of our past history.”
Where and how you find inspiration for your artwork?
I love my studio. It’s a world that I cherish. A world that allows me to fully express myself without being judged for any thought, feeling, or idea that flows from my fingers onto my canvas.
Every article in my studio, every trinket, is a reflection of who I am.
It allows me to paint subject matter that’s closest to my heart without hindrance of fear or rejection. It completes the other half of me that few see; or desire to. Ultimately, it’s my platform to create gifts I desire to share with any who are receptive.
I consider the Bronx to be an extension of my studio. Everything in the Bronx; it’s history, streets, parks, trains, playgrounds, are an intrinsic part of my entire make up. It has blessed me with endless subject matter. Subject matter I hope to give to the world for many years.