Artist Minn has deep roots in the Chicano art movement

Sitting in the sunroom of his Oak Park Heights home, his dog Ruby napping nearby, Jimmy Longoria recalled the moment he had a chance encounter with famed Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo.

Longoria was 16 years old and had been invited by a mentor to attend a party in the Hollywood Hills, a party hosted by a Mexican actress. Tamayo was a guest.

Longoria came out to where Tamayo was painting in the backyard. He spoke to the maestro in Spanish.

“He says, ‘By the way, when you become an artist…’

I told him: “I have no interest in being an artist. I will be governor.’

He says, ‘Well, if you approach her, you must understand that you must have a Tamayo lady [his wife] because Ms. Tamayo takes care of everything I do and makes it possible for me to just paint’”.

Jimmy Longoria leans on one of his signature painted mansions in his Oak Park Heights, Minn., home studio on Aug. 30.

Ben Hovland | MPR News

Longoria didn’t know it at the time, but Tamayo’s words would prove prophetic. Four years later, Longoria made a life-changing decision. And his artistic career began when, while attending Pitzer College in Claremont, California, he changed his course of study to art.

His day job brought him to Minnesota in 1988. Where, like many others, he thought he would only stay a few years.

“My first year, I was walking my dog ​​in the middle of the night in the middle of a storm, in my slippers, boxers and parka. And I went, ‘Ah, I’m going to stay,’ and then I kept staying,” he said.

Longoria calls herself of Chicano artist of Minnesota.

He chose to be a Chicano artist in 1974, he said. Longoria chose to identify as a Chicano artist based on his experiences in Texas where he was born.

“All over Texas, signs go up: no dogs, no blacks, no Mexicans. My family cultural history, oral history was, you’re not Mexican, you’re not from Mexico, you’re from here from this area, you’re Tejano. “But as far as the sheriff, as far as the people who controlled all the social and political structures in South Texas, I’m Mexican, it makes no difference,” Longoria said.

The definition of Chicano varies depending on who you ask. And Chicano art is no exception.

Chicano art grew out of the Movimiento – the Chicano movement of the 1960s which fought for social justice.

Longoria has his own definition of Chicano.

“It’s an exploratory culture. In other words, instead of looking back for justification and foundations, I’m not looking for the base of a pyramid. I’m looking at what a pyramid looks like in Minnesota. What is the future of that pyramid? And what is the function of a pyramid? An artist has a different way of looking at things now,” he said.

A person holds a painted hoe with a short handle

Jimmy Longoria holds a painted short-handled hoe, a farm tool that became a symbol of migrant workers in the mid-20th century, in his home studio in Oak Park Heights, Minn., on Aug. 30.

Ben Hovland | MPR News

In June, Chicano art came into the spotlight with the opening of the Cheech Marin Center for Arts and Culture in Riverside, California.

And because of that, Longoria said many collectors will want to add Chicano art to their collections.

His art is everywhere in his house. And more art is stored in a room he calls the vault, which is adjacent to his downstairs studio.

But his artwork can also be found in the office of US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor; Private Collection of Cheech Marin; even in the bathrooms of the Bush Foundation offices.

If you look closely at his paintings, none of the canvases have a signature. In fact, none of his original pieces have a signature. A signature appears only on reproductions, Longoria said.

Baseball fans attending Tuesday’s game will have the opportunity to own a T-shirt with a reproduction of Longoria’s artwork.

He was approached in February by the Minnesota Twins, who requested some of his artwork.

“It’s funny, because they said ‘we just, (want) anything that has your art on it,’ I said, ‘That’s not how I work. So I did five different designs,'” Longoria said.

Longoria said the Twins chose the “softer” designs for the shirt. And they also insisted on a signature.

T-shirts will be given to the first 5,000 fans through the gate. And they’re being given just in time to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month which begins on September 15th.

Vicki Adame covers Minnesota’s Latino communities for MPR News via Report on Americaa national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on issues and undercover communities.

A man sorts colorful paper patterns

Jimmy Longoria sorts out designs for the Minnesota Twins in his Oak Park Heights, Minn., home studio on Aug. 30.

Ben Hovland | MPR News

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