Jose Villalobos

Sin la "s"

 
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I was born and raised in the border town of El Paso, Texas. Growing up, there was a constant challenge for me due to Mexican customs and the expectations set by my family’s traditional values. I realized I was gay and this was in direct contrast with my religious upbringing. From the machismo remarks I would hear, I felt unwanted and my true-self dwindle.

This body of work largely centers on body image, self-identity as a gay man, and my family’s disappointment in my inability to carry on the family’s name. I incorporate found objects to craft a feminine and masculine dichotomy using symbols from my culture. My work protests these traditional views and celebrates homosexuality. 

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In your artist statement, you mention that Mexican customs and your family’s traditional values were a challenge to you growing up. Could you elaborate on the customs and the masculinity you witnessed that made it particularly difficult as a gay child?

The customs of masculinity was always seeing and hearing the roles of men vs. women. There is no in between. Masculinity was defined by what the male did, from their job to the way they would carry themselves in public and at home. They carried themselves to be superior to others, especially females. I would experience my uncles, and sometimes my brother-in-laws, tell me not run, scream or act like a girl. They would sometimes say “No sea joto” which translates to “Don’t be a faggot”. 

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Speaking of masculinity, the traditional Mexican clothing you reference in your work is fairly flamboyant in its origin. What is the cultural significance to those outfits, and how does your homosexual experience change how you view them?

You’re right, they’re very flamboyant. It’s funny to me and at times a little confusing. There is always talk within the men in the Mexican culture what a “macho” or “real” man should look like, and the end result is quite contradicting. .

 
 
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Which re-appropriated symbol do you think best celebrates homosexuality in its new life?

There are certain things, like the traditional sombrero, that act as a symbol of power for most men - at least from how I would see it. And by taking this object and altering it with a flamboyant flare, I feel like it loses its masculinity or power. 

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You can find more and keep up to date with Jose via his website and Instagram