A new exhibit will be featured at the Tweed Museum from now until January 29, 2017 called
“Un-Typing Casta,” by Minneapolis-based artist Maria Cristina Tavera.
“Un-Typing Casta” is a collection of prints, paintings and novelas exploring the ideas of
contemporary Latinx identity.
Exhibition curator and UMD assistant professor of Art History, Dr. Jamie Ratliff, first discovered
Tavera when she was working on an essay for an upcoming Midwest Art History Conference on
Latino Art. “I came across an image of hers online, and it was like love at first sight,” Ratliff said.
Right when Ratliff came across one of Tavera’s images she knew that she wanted to write her
essay on Tavera’s works.
“I committed to writing an essay on a series that wasn’t finished yet,” Ratliff said.
After meeting with Tavera and learning that she was doing an exhibit at Augsburg College in
Minneapolis, Ratliff wanted to get an exhibition at the Tweed Museum of Art.
“I wanted to bring her up her to the Tweed because of our art students (and) our history
students, but also the students in foreign languages and in Latin American area studies,” Ratliff
said. “I knew that this could be a really great conversation starter here on our campus as well.”
Tavera said that her interest within this project was to explore concepts of racial identity through
the past and contemporary forms.
“[My work] is about Lanix culture, but in reality everyone has a background. It’s about what
things make them who they are,” Tavera said.
A “casta” is a Mexican colonial genre painting which depicts a hierarchy based on blood types.
How much European blood, African blood or Native blood you had would put you into a different
classification or ranking on the painting.
“Her works kind of take contemporary and modern imagery that also deals with race, that deals
with ethnicity, that deals with gender, nationality and citizenship,” Ratliff said.
The opening night of this exhibit was on Nov 8, 2016 – election night.
“Its opening at a very important time. It is a time for us to be examining some of these
questions,” Ratliff said.
Tavera says in her artist statement, “My project is NOT meant to define how people should be
classified, but instead to explore how people of the Latin American diaspora express their own
“Un-Typing Casta” uses source materials from many popular objects and media sources from
Hispanic and Latin cultures. Ratliff selected the objects that would be surrounding her works
during the exhibition. She picked many of the items from popular culture that are seen
throughout Tavera’s works.
“I wanted to give our audience here in Duluth that might not be familiar with these objects the
opportunity to get to look at them,” Ratliff said.
Ratliff and other members encourage students to come to the Tweed and look at the exhibition.
“I hope they open their mind and ask themselves those hard and challenging questions, and
how we view each other. “ Ratliff said.
“Un-Typing Casta” is featured in the Tweed Museum of Art at University of Minnesota Duluth
until Jan 29. Dr. Jamie Ratliff will be giving a gallery talk about the exhibition on Jan 19 at 6 p.m.