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Life & Work with Hugo Ximello-Salido

Today we’d like to introduce you to Hugo Ximello-Salido. Them and their team share their story with us below:

Muxe: The Language of Art & Culture

As a young boy growing up in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Hugo Ximello-Salido felt early on that something about him was unlike most of his peers. Experiences being teased and bullied for his uniqueness sensitized him to the ways in which various groups perceive differences and respond to them. It wasn’t until later that Ximello-Salido would realize what this difference was.

He first experienced Oaxaca, Mexico as a 15 years old, when he traveled there with his father during a crucial time in his discovery of his sexuality. The vibrant culture he experienced in Oaxaca informed his journey to self-acceptance and made a lasting mark on the way he perceived the world.

Years later, he visited Oaxaca again – as an adult and a self-taught artist, now living in the American Midwest – and met the Muxes for the first time. He encountered Felina and Rubi in Juchitan, and although he had little prior knowledge of Muxe and their culture, he was immediately struck by the enigmatic beauty and power that they brought to their daily lives.

He remembered his journey to Oaxaca as a young man and was immediately inspired to celebrate and share in this unique and vital community – a fusion of Zapotec culture and colonial influence that created a place where gender fluidity could blossom, where self-expression could create beauty, and where art and life could converge.

This meeting was the beginning of a new journey – an effort to learn about Muxe culture, appreciate its singular history and contemporary expression, and to help share its beauty with the world. The result of that effort is a new documentary film featuring Oaxaca and its singular Muxe culture. Titled Muxe: The Language of Art & Culture, the documentary is a love letter to the Muxe and their impact on Ximello-Salido’s life and art.

Even before meeting Felina and Rubi, Ximello-Salido’s work was filled with a rich expression of his cultural heritage. His natural creativity and passion for painting stems from a family background full of artists. Upon moving to the United States, initial cultural shocks and difficulty with communication prompted him to begin expressing himself visually and to develop his own style and techniques.

Ximello-Salido’s early work was primarily inspired by the traditions and colors of Mexican culture. Through a fusion of folkloric symbols, old-world history, and contemporary social issues, he created a dialogue about identity and culture that abounds with color and texture. The use of symbolic figures such as La Catrina and traditional cultural objects like Loteria cards are rich reminders of his cultural heritage that he hopes will challenge American stereotypes about Mexican art and enhance understanding across cultures.

With Muxe: The Language of Art & Culture, Ximello-Salido opens a new chapter in his artistic career. Filmed in both Kansas City, Missouri, and multiple locations across Oaxaca – including Juchitán de Zaragoza, where the project received a warm welcome – the documentary serves as both an introduction to and a complement for a new series of paintings and sculptural works featuring the theme of gender fluidity.

“I hope this (documentary) will be a powerful way to create deeper knowledge and social awareness of this unique facet of Mexican culture and its roots,” says Ximello-Salido, “while at the same time exploring the larger understanding of gender fluidity across cultures. I want to discover how we can enrich our appreciation of our local transgender, non-binary, or “third gender” (two-spirit) individuals and communities through valuing the lives and experiences of Muxe.”

The documentary “Muxe: The Language of Art & Culture” combines the artist’s passionate embrace of Mexican culture with his desire to create a visually stunning homage to Muxe that will be inspiring and educational for the audience. Ximello-Salido has been in contact with multiple galleries in cities around the world, including Amsterdam, Montreal, New York, Chicago, and Kansas City, to discuss featuring the film and the art he has created to surround it.

To learn more about the artist and his film and to find information on when and how to view it, visit Ximello-Salido’s production company website at LuminousArt.org.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Covid was a major obstruction while filming the documentary. Many archeological places, including museums and other sites were closed due to covid. These circumstances made the filming challenging, even transportation from Oaxaca City to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec was canceled by plane.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
As a native Mexican, culture and tradition are a vital part of my heritage. As a Mexican-American, I am fascinated by the dialogue between different cultures and traditions. As an artist, I explore personal experiences, emotions, and connections through the lens of my past and present in order to create a vibrant future. Through my work, I strive to increase social awareness of the many parts of my intersectional identity and experience as a Mexican-American member of the LGBTQ community.

My early work focuses on the legacy of Mexican culture and its collision with the American experience. Major inspirations include Mexican colonial style, “La Catrina” (the elegant skull), and other culturally significant symbols such as La Loteria Mexicana (Mexican bingo), papel picado (perforated tissue paper), and Talavera. I use a variety of materials, including acrylic paint, ink, gels, sand, papier-mâché, spray paint, and more to modernize, revive, and reinvent the Mexican art that inspires me.

Through each piece, I seek to convey a unique yet universal sense of being, feeling, or thought. I hope to challenge stereotypes, commercialization and commodification, and the arbitrary barriers we create between our shared humanity. My point of view emerges from varied perspectives on language, cultural differences, race, cultural bias, and more. My process is meditative and expressive, an expulsion of demons and a dispensation of beauty.

By crafting original artworks inspired by Mexican folklore, diverse communities, and daily experiences, I endeavor to bridge the gap between past and present as a modern, Mexican-American artist.

Three Things I Believe As An Artist. Anyone can create art; Art should be accessible and affordable to everyone; All work should be original.

Do you any memories from childhood that you can share with us?
I remember that art was always present in my childhood either in the shape of music or any other artistic expression. My mother used to paint & one of my aunts is an artist and has an art academy in Northern Mexico. My childhood was always surrounded by art and inspiration.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Destiny Defie and Maria Di Paola Blum

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