Jorge Calleja’s exhibition at the 2nd Floor Contemporary Art Center in downtown El Paso poked fun at people’s religious beliefs while mocking his lost sense of culture through his often interactive artworks.
After racing out of Juarez when the violence was at its height in 2009 and settling in El Paso with his family, Calleja said he stopped celebrating his culture when he came to the states. “I didn’t want to be an American. I wanted to be a Mexican and there is a different culture here. I quit going to church and I began to let my traditions, traditions that I wanted to continue, actually fade away. I stopped seeing prayer as a release, but as a job.” Jorge said that is when his thinking slowly became diluted regarding his own culture.
Jorge’s exhibition entitled Mother, Forgive Me was geared at making fun of himself for losing that connection to his heritage and challenging those who claim to have a religious relationship with their “higher power.” “I created this ginormous translucent vinyl cross, labeled “Modern Faith,” because I see I am not the only one who has lost some sense of tradition. These people are wearing crosses and the rosary like it’s a fashion statement. When you put it on, you are a pimp.”
Calleja also poked fun of religion and candles. He goes on to say that people want instant gratification these days; they are not willing to work for what they believe in. “Take for example when people pay to light a candle at church or buy an idolic candle at the store…why do they do this? So, I made rose scented candles that depict the baby Jesus in my show. For 25 cents you can buy the candle and expect immediate results.”
Jorge created a necktie made with a pattern famous with the culture of Mexico, the Zarape, consisting of bright colors; reds, greens, pinks, yellows and blues. He calls this “Business Casual.” Jorge noted, “The tie was basically a call back to when I was working in an office environment. It was not until I had an office job in the United States did I realize it put me in a higher position than most people in Mexico. I don’t mean that to sound arrogant, but I wasn’t doing anything important and I was still making money. Compare that to people in Juarez who are actually working their ass off and not making any money!”
Calleja continues to poke fun at society’s adoration of gold in his piece entitled, “Trust Me.” “We see gold as a symbol of trust. As I was growing up, there was this guy around the corner and everyone knew he was a drug dealer. He was tacky yet always had groupies around him and he had this big shiny gold tooth. Well, as a society we think, the shinier the better, the more gold, the better, but in reality, it does not matter how shiny your tooth is…the rest of his mouth is full of shit.”
The title of his exhibition is an apology to Jorge’s three mothers regarding his choices in life. “I see the concept of mother in three different forms, mother as the head of a family, mother as the religious aspect with the Virgin Mary, and mother as Madre Patria.” Calleja wanted the title of the exhibit to say he was sorry for not following what his mother, the Virgin Mary, and his grandmother taught him in life. The exhibition was an attempt to show what the results of those choices.
You can find Jorge’s collections at: lapaginadejorgecalleja.net