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Spring exhibition to feature Mexican-American artist

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Artist Cornelio Campos is shown with his work, 'The Struggle.'

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From Contributed Reports

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The spring exhibition in the gallery at the Blount-Bridgers House will feature Mexican-American artist Cornelio Campos.

A collection of recent studio works by the painter will be exhibited through May 30 with a reception in the gallery from 6-7:30 p.m. on May 2 sponsored by Edgecombe Arts.

Campos is a self-taught artist based in Durham. He immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico as a teenager — a journey and process that influences many of his paintings. Vibrant colors, iconic American symbols and intricate geometric patterns define Campos’s work.

Through his paintings, he illustrates some of the harsh realities of immigrating to America. Moreover, he highlights deep-seated political issues that contribute to Mexican immigration, including implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

As an artist with no formal training, Campos’s paintings exemplify techniques that he learned through observation and often defy traditional color schemes. His paintings contain therapeutic, controversial and enlightening elements that make them both unique and unforgettable.

“My paintings are inspired by the nostalgia I have for my hometown of Cherán, Mexico, my family and the customs that I grew up with,” he said. “I also see my paintings as a tool for sharing my indigenous background and for offering a teaching lesson to people here in the United States.

“I try to use my paintings as tools for education and ways to start conversation that will let others think and then do their own investigating.”

Campos focuses on three main themes: political issues, Mexican folklore — with an emphasis on the culture of Michoacán — and anthropological symbols of Mexican ethnic groups.

The indigenous group to which Campos belongs are the Tarascos in Mexico, the only group that the Aztecs had no sovereignty over, even though they were geographically close. Campos uses this group as a source of inspiration and introspection because he is returning to his roots.

He also communicates the realities of immigration in his paintings. Campos said his paintings capture his own experience and his struggles while crossing the border — consequently, they allow people who have been through similar experiences to relate to his journey.

Through these themes, he addresses the issues faced by people from Central and South America — the lingering cultural significance of Spanish colonization and the experience of creating a life in a new country.

Campos describes this work as a narrative — a free expression of what he thinks about, a way to respond to what is happening in society in general and the status of immigration in the U.S. He said he enjoys starting conversations with his art, which in return motivates him.

His paintings have been shown in  galleries and exhibitions including at UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke University, N.C. State University and the Museum of American Indian Art.

The Hobson Pittman Memorial Gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and at other times by appointment by calling 252-823-4159.

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