Día de los Muertos Artist Interview: Xavier Viramontes

"America Built by Immigrants," 2017. "Sanctuary," 2017. "American Hero," 2016. Xavier Viramontes.

“America Built by Immigrants,” 2017. “Sanctuary,” 2017. “American Hero,” 2016.
Xavier Viramontes.

Why did you choose these three types of heroes?

To me, there are a lot of heroes in life, many of them unappreciated and never really acknowledged.  I wanted to bring recognition to those everyday heroes who do so much for our society yet get little if any appreciation or recognition.  So my posters highlighted my parents who came from Mexico, immigrated to the United States and raised 7 children.  They worked hard, paid their taxes and contributed to Society as good law abiding people like so many other immigrants who have come to this country.  Yet they get little appreciation. (America – Made by Immigrants)  In the (Sanctuary) poster, I featured my mother to represent all the immigrant mothers struggling to make a good life for their children. In the (American Hero) poster, I featured Capt. Khan who was killed serving in the U.S. Military.  Capt. Khan was an immigrant to this country, yet served in the U.S. Military like my father, brother and cousin did.

How has your focus in art changed from your earlier years to now?

In the beginning, I started my art career by attending the S.F. Art Institute and working with the Galeria de la Raza in San Francisco.  I started out as a painter then moved onto printmaking, making silkscreens and etchings. I have always felt that it was my duty to try and tell the story of the Latino from my perspective. So, much of my work  featured images of Latino people participating in their everyday situations.  For sometime now, my work has had a political bent to it.  In the 1970’s, I did a silkscreen poster for the United Farmworkers union titled: ‘Boycott Grapes”.  This poster is part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution.

Why do you think it’s important to make political statements in your art/SERIOUS WORKS?

One can not go about life acting as if though everything is just fine when in fact everything is not fine. When one sees an injustice, one should speak out.  All immigrants in this country are under attack now, so it’s time for those of use, the children of immigrants,  to speak up. It’s time now for all of use to fight for our mothers and fathers, our sister and brothers.

What do you want people to get from your art?

I hope that people of color, immigrants and non-immigrants, realize that they matter, that they are important enough that someone made an art piece to acknowledge them and say ‘I am with you.  You are important”.

About the Artist

Xavier Viramontes is a painter and printmaker whose focus is family and culture. After graduating from the San Francisco Art Institute with a BFA degree in painting, he attended San Francisco State University and graduated with an MA degree in printmaking. His work has been shown in Mexico City, Tokyo, Puerto Rico and Amsterdam. 

Check out his website: xavierviramontes.com