by Claudia Preza
Ungalleried Curator, Claudia S. Preza, had the privilege to sit down with Manuel Urueta of Xingaderas and learn about the inspiration behind the creative endeavor of paper mâché sculptures.
Xingaderas is an art collaborative duo consisting of the artist couple of Manuel Urueta and Celina Galicia. Both emerging artists, Urueta and Galicia, pursue cinematography projects in their artistic practice as individual video and film artists. However, through Xingaderas they explore a new and different realm from their usual artistic practice. Both Urueta and Galicia grew up between the border sister cities of El Paso, Texas, the U.S. and Cuidad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico—an area with the unique quality of having its own binational culture. Urueta and Galicia use their experiences of growing up in the U.S. and Mexico border to create artworks that are as unique as the location that influences them.
As Urueta began to pursue a career in the arts professionally, he soon realized that he needed to create his own path, rather than let others decide that for him. Subsequently, he decided to independently pursue his art career, rather than continue one restrained by the academic politics he encountered while trying to earn his university degree in art. During the interview, Urueta mentioned that his philosophical outlook on life conflicts with the idea of paying for education. Following an academic curriculum does not allow him full liberty to dictate his own artistic outcomes, so why should he pay if he cannot create the art he wants to create. However, rather than being negative about the situation, he saw an opportunity to take something he learned in free public high school, paper mâché, and create an art business with it. Creating Xingaderas serve two purposes for Urueta: earning an income and meditation. During the process of creating this type of art, he found inner peace, and a form of relaxation.
The creative name of Xingaderas is a play on the Spanish slang word chingadera, which holds multiple positive and negative connotations. By substituting the 'ch' with an 'x' they infuse the word with playfulness and transform the usual negative interpretation into something colorful and fantastical. Urueta mentions that he was apprehensive at first about the name, “I asked my mom—a deeply religious lady—what she thought about the name…she seemed to like it, not offensive really.” After talking to friends and family, he decided to embrace the name. He also mentions that when the public first hear the name, they seem to enjoy it - that it brings laughter from the audience. “One time an elderly man and a kid, probably a grandfather and grandchild, saw my art booth and the grandfather told the child to read the name. As he sounded it out and read it, the man playfully scolded him for saying majaderías (curse words) and laughed.” Through his pursuit of Xingaderas, Urueta uses something that the public is familiar with and transforms it into a fun and humorous experience. By employing his playful vision, he can lighten up anyone’s day through brightly colored and ornate paper mâché sculptural creations.
For Urueta, Xingaderas is a creative endeavor outside of his personal opinions, perspectives, and influences. Xingaderas came from Urueta’s desire to create a world where he could focus on creating art and forget about the negativity brought on by everything else, “I created my world to disconnect from the notions [and] complications of the real one. [Xingaderas] is not a political statement, not a reflection of anything, it is [just] a place outside the real world, where I can create new things…things from dreams.”
Finding inspiration from alebrijes—Mexican folk art sculptures of animal-like creatures—Urueta began developing his creatures to combine tradition with modern innovation to create his xingas. Urueta explains that he gives names to all his creations by adding the whole name or part of the Spanish name of the main animalistic inspiration after the prefix xinga. For example, if the animal resemblance is that of a donkey, the xingadera becomes a xinga burrito. Some of the common animal-like xingas, take inspiration from animals such as raccoons, cats, dogs, alligators, horses, among other ones. Apart from traditional animals, Urueta creates other fantastical xingas inspired by from the sun, moon, and even from Aztec mythology. Some of the most common commissions include the xinga dos cabezas, a two-headed creature. Most notably, one of Xingaderas biggest commission was a Quetzalcoatl mojiganga—a feathered serpent mask for a Day of the Dead parade held by the El Paso Museum of Art.
Their current production space consists of a converted garage/studio. Along one of the walls, whimsical works in progress line the counter. On another wall, a shelving unit stores various projects, some completed, other still in the developing stage. In the center of the room, a table stands with multiple current Xingaderas creations. Stacks of newspapers and lined bottles are everywhere throughout the space. Constant creation is evident, a fact furthered confirmed by Urueta who likes to always keep busy and creating art.
Xingaderas embodies traditional paper mâché techniques of layering paper strips mixed with a glue-like substance to produce the contemporary visions often dreamed up by both artists, Urueta and Galicia, and even patrons. The creative endeavor employs paper mâché as a medium for several reasons, it is free (uses newspapers as the main source of paper), allows him to recycle, is it a simple and practical material, and creates strong and durable sculptures. Creating a xinga is a quick process and according to Urueta, the waiting time for the paper sculptures to dry is the longest part of Xingaderas fantastical creations .
As an artist, Urueta follows the philosophy of using his hands more than he would use his mouth. He believes that everyone should “find their voice, [do] what completes them, [and] what makes them happy.” He tries to “see more, do more, listen more, and talk less.” He attributes his life experiences, the constant crossing of the border in his daily life, the people he meets, but most importantly the friendships he has built through his career as an artist, as the main reasons for him being the artist he is today.
The popularity of Xingaderas continues to increase and currently, Urueta is working on expanding the scope of its paper mâché creations. Urueta realizes the potential for his creative endeavor to explore into other mediums to include drawings of the xinga-creatures on custom-made merchandise such as t-shirts, tote bags, stickers, pins, three-dimensional magnets, and other limited-edition items. Urueta is excited about the prospect of taking Xingaderas globally through Ungalleried. A xingadera is essential to any collection because he says: “They are artworks taken from a completely magical place – unique and with a heart, they have a variety of uses.”