Throughout history, many prominent Hispanic and Latinx artists have sparked cultural conversations and made names for themselves by exploring and representing their heritage via painting, sculpture, textiles and other media — artists like Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Fernando Botero and Jose Clemente Orozco. Now, there’s a new generation of contemporary Hispanic American and Latinx artists on the scene who are creating their own legacies.
In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, join us for a look at a collection of Hispanic American and Latinx artists who work across a wide array of media. From street artists and graphic designers to painters and photographers, each incorporates their own uniquely powerful message into their incredible work.
Roberto Lugo is a self-billed “ghetto potter and social activist” of Puerto Rican descent who’s on a mission to make ceramics cool again. Lugo takes old-school, aristocratic-looking porcelain pieces and hand paints their surfaces with portraits of icons such as Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman and The Notorious B.I.G.
Sometimes Lugo’s work even features images of his family members or himself. The idea behind many of his pieces is to use street art-style techniques in a way that highlights figures who would’ve been unlikely to appear on these items throughout history. The result is so much cooler — and more meaningful — than anything you’re likely to find in your grandma’s china cabinet. Follow his work on Instagram at @robertolugowithoutwax.
Original image by Robske200 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
Barbara Rivera is an American artist of Cuban and Mexican descent who paints captivatingly kaleidoscopic portraits. Each of her pieces uses vibrant colors and symbolism to tell a story about the featured subject. A Southern California native, Rivera is a self-taught artist who has always been inspired by her rich cultural heritage.
As Rivera herself puts it, “My paintings are a reflection of my life, my journey, and the things that are important to me, as influenced by my surroundings: people, places, cultures, and things that I love.” Feast your eyes on her latest bright and beautiful works at her Instagram account, @barbarariveraart.
Maria Martínez-Cañas was born in Cuba but also lived in Miami and Puerto Rico as a child. Her work is intensely unique — so much so that calling her a “photographer” doesn’t quite begin to cover it. Martínez-Cañas experiments with a vast array of photographic techniques, including photomontage and stains, and she prints her images on tapestry, newsprint, vellum and other media.
Marcela Guerrero, a curator at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, describes Martínez-Cañas’ work as being “marked by an insatiable drive to experiment with different photographic techniques.” Her inspirations include everything from old maps to her Caribbean childhood. Check out her work on her website or follow her on Instagram at @mphotogram.
Niege Borges is a Brazilian-born graphic designer and illustrator now based in Brooklyn, New York. Borges has become known throughout the graphic design industry for her fun, colorful designs and illustrations and has worked for top clients such as Apple, Sephora, Visa, TOMs and others.
While Borges is fluent in various styles, her work often portrays “fabulous women and fashion” by featuring women of color in a bold, fun way. The artist recently revealed in an interview, “Not too long ago a little Latina girl saw my illustration of a Latina woman, and she said that it looked like her and I was very happy that she felt represented.” Check out her latest work on Instagram at @niegeborges.
Johanna Toruño was born and raised in El Salvador before her family was displaced and moved to the United States when she was 10 years old. Her early experiences with the aftermath of her native country’s civil war taught her the power of art as a means of political expression. Today, Toruño lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she sees every street as a potential gallery for her powerful posters.
She created “The Unapologetic Street Series” to amplify her voice through a series of outdoor flyer-style posters, as well as on a line of skateboards. A strong advocate for women of color and the LGBTQ+ community, Johanna Toruño creates work that’s as profound as it is beautiful.
Judy Baca is a Chicana artist who’s been beautifying the streets of Los Angeles for nearly 50 years. In 1974, she founded the first City of Los Angeles Mural Program, which ultimately led her to open a community arts organization called the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC).
SPARC’s first project, the Great Wall of Los Angeles, is still among its most famous. The project began in the 1970s under Baca’s supervision. Since then, the organization has employed over 400 at-risk youth and their families to create a stunning mural that’s over half a mile long. Baca’s community-based public art reflects her deep passion for including historically marginalized communities in the contemporary-art conversation.
Xochi Solis is a Latinx artist who splits her time between her studios in Texas and Mexico. Her one-of-a-kind mixed-media works include paintings, monoprints and installations, all of which usually take the form of multi-layered collages. Her pieces incorporate everything from paint and paper to vinyl, plastics and other found materials.
According to her website, Solis “considers the repeated act of layering a meditation on color, texture, and shape all leading to a greater awareness of the visual intricacies found in her immediate environment, both natural and cultural.” Her work is colorful, unique and the kind of thing you have to stop and study so you can appreciate its true depth. Stay up to date on her latest pieces by following her on Instagram at @xochisolis.
Jorge Garza a.k.a. Qetza
Ever wonder what ancient Aztec art would look like if it were still around today? Check out the work of Jorge Garza, a.k.a. Qetza. Garza’s art often depicts pop culture icons and everyday people from contemporary times — but as they would’ve appeared if Mesoamerican Aztec artists had rendered them.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Garza recently created a series of pieces depicting “everyday warriors” — doctors, farmers, nurses, postal workers, cooks, teachers and others — in his digitized Aztec style. You can stay up to date on his latest pursuits by following him on Instagram @qetzaart.