The Bone-Grass Boy

Created over two decades ago, the BGB project was an interdisciplinary exploration to the "performative" in photography that made use of historical narrative and new technologies (photoshop 2.5, Quark) to give voice to an intersectional practice, long before we had a name for it.

The Bone-Grass Boy: The Secret Banks of the Conejos River was a conceptual project that included installations, painting, sculpture, writing, and photography.  The project manifested itself in two ways: first as a literary trope of the frontier novel of the late nineteenth century, and second, as a digitally constructed artifact whose material presence stood in for the historical absence of Latinx authored voices in nineteenth century America.  The frontier novel often depicted Native and Latinx inhabitants as racialized personages encountered on an otherwise naturalized conquest of the West. Bone-Grass Boy was their nemesis. Set during the U.S.-Mexican War (1846–48), a period that saw bitter struggles between cultures, the work considered the effects of the US conquest on the two main characters. Ramoncita is a Native/Latina “two-spirit person”1 who, the reader learns, is forced to kill the rancher to whom she has been indentured and Nepomuceno, a New Mexican soldier, who fought on the Mexican side, only to have to sneak back to his homeland, now America.

Bone-Grass Boy made use of new technologies (in the early 1990s) to construct a “nevermade.” It played  off Marcel Duchamp’s now archetypal readymades such as Fountain (1917). The artistic intervention is conceptual:  The creation of an object that was never made but that is given the appearance of a historical document and offers which might be seen as a "queer" critique of history itself.  Bone-Grass Boy is both a performative and a narrative intervention that sought to challenge traditional notions of race, nationality, and gender at a time when anti-immigration rhetoric argued for building "the wall" along the US/Mexican boarder and created in a time when gay men were dying of AIDS, Lady Bunny ruled the underground club scene, and Harry Reid was speaking out against "illegal immigrants" on the senate floor.

Notes 1. Two-spirit people, once widely referred to as berdache, are often defined as constituting a third, fourth, or even a fifth gender. For more on the berdache, see Will Roscoe, The Zuni Man-Woman (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1991).

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Source: AZTLÁN: A Journal of Chicano Studies

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