Jake Prendez, a Chicanx artist form Seattle, grew up being told he didn't matter, that because he was interested in art related to cholo and gang culture, he was never going to matter. But he turned that around and now he inspires countless kids with his art.
Jake Prendez is a Chicano artist born in California and raised in Seattle. He returned to California to work on his Master’s in Chicano Studies from CSU Northridge. All his work revolves around the idea of how the concept of social justice is intertwined with Chicano art in the Latino communities.
After being ignored in school by his teachers, Prendez was put in special education classes due to undiagnosed dyslexia and became involved in gang culture. But later, thanks to positive role models, he became heavily involved in the Chicano movement and student organizations. Then, he went on to receive his BA in American Ethnic Studies at the University of Washington and his MA in Chicana/o Studies from CSU Northridge. His thesis was titled "The Art of Rebellion: Social Justice and Chicano Visual Arts."
Today, he is also a renowned visual artist, lecturing and showing his work across the country. He is also a founding member of Puro Pedo Magazine, a satirical magazine for Chicanx activists, and other cultural endeavors, such as the Pop Up Mercado, The Barrio Boogie Collective, Buen Pastor Mural Project, as well as founding member of the Chicana and Chicano Bar Association of Greater Los Angeles.
He has said his art "is just an amalgamation of my life and experiences. My art is my childhood, my family, my friends, my crushes, heartbreak, loneliness, depression, Los Angeles, Seattle, tattoos, rockabilly style, pop culture, pachucos and vintage culture, the 80’s, indigenismo, Mexico, Chicana/o studies, leftist politics, satire, and jokes, all put in a blender and poured out onto a canvas."
"I think a lot of my recent work started off with a simple question about how we look at ourselves and relate to our ancestors. I was intrigued by the concept of genetic memory. I am the hands, the eyelashes, the laugh, the song of my ancestors. The Genetic Memory paintings we about relating to that and how we are the flower to their seeds. The Cultural Resilience series was in reference to when folks speak of the Aztecs or Mayans as extinct people. Indigenous people still exist. And like genetic memory our culture survives in our songs, our cooking, in the ways we raise our children and the ways we dance."
Some of his pieces show vibrant young people of Latinx descent, side by side with images taken from pre-Columbian codex to show how deep the indigenous roots are still living in the everyday, modern people that descend form them. His series, called Mujeres Chingonas, shows regular women doing everyday stuff, but the subjects' powerful colors and attitude make the viewer think carefully about how heroic the lives of Latinx women are when faced with violence and lack of opportunities.
Other pieces show cultural icons of the community that are great role models for young people, who, like him, are told they don't matter.
One of the things he feels most proud of is that these are portraits of people he knows in real life, "about 90% of the people in my paintings are real people. I have had the great fortune of painting amazing people who have been good friends," he says.
He is trying to show these young people that they can be proud of their roots and their culture, as well as how important it is to know these icons and how they can also make a difference in the world.
All images: @jakeprendez
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