Oxnard exhibit reflects immigrant experience

Republished from Ventura County Star
By Claudia Boyd-Barrett
Aaron Dadacay’s life straddles two cultures, but he feels he doesn’t belong to either of them.
The 31-year-old Oxnard artist grew up in the Philippines and moved to the United States at age 18. He speaks perfect English, thanks in part to a childhood spent watching American television shows. He also speaks the Filipino language Tagalog, eats Filipino food and listens to Filipino music.

Yet his identity is neither American nor Filipino, he said. It’s somewhere in between.

“Whatever’s available here, you assimilate and you make it your own,” said Dadacay, noting also the prevalence of Hispanic culture and foods in Oxnard. “It’s kind of like this hybrid identity, or hybrid culture, a third culture that creates your new identity.”


What: “Territorial Nomads: Tales of Diaspora”
Where: 519 South C St., Oxnard.
Reception: 6-9 p.m. Saturday
Exhibit: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends, through Feb. 26
Cost: Free

This idea of a blended cultural identity arising from the immigrant experience is the focus of a 20-piece multimedia art exhibit organized by Dadacay and three longtime artist friends that opens Saturday in downtown Oxnard. Titled “Territorial Nomads: Tales of Diaspora,” the exhibit is housed in an office building that is home to the Oxnard Downtown Improvement District.

Dadacay said he chose the venue because of a lack of gallery space in Oxnard and because he’s trying to bring art to an audience beyond the typical gallery-goer.

All of the artists participating in the exhibit are first-generation immigrants who, like Dadacay, arrived in the United States as children or teenagers. Maria Villote, 31, was also born in the Philippines and moved to Oxnard at age 9. Olguin Tapia, 28, moved from Mexico to the United States at about age 7. Gladys Rodriguez, 28, arrived in Oxnard from Panama at age 14. The four friends met while studying at Oxnard College about a decade ago.

Each artist said their native culture continues to inform their view of the world, even though they have assimilated to life in the United States. Their artwork explores aspects of their own cultural and personal experiences.

Rodriguez, a graduate of CSU Los Angeles, is exhibiting a sculpture, a video installation and two collages that draw on colors and traditions of her homeland. Her genealogy is Spanish, native Panamanian and African, a mixture she said is unremarkable in Panama, but generates confusion here.

“A lot of times when people look at me, they think I’m African-American, then I start speaking Spanish and they don’t really know,” she said. In the United States, “everything has a label: Oh, you are African-American, you are white American, you’re Latino-American or you’re Asian-American.

“For a long time, I felt like an outsider.”

Villote, a graduate of UC Berkeley, explores a feeling of rootlessness through her installation of empty cargo boxes traditionally sent home by Filipino immigrants living abroad. The boxes are addressed to the places she lived in the Philippines, from the various homes she’s lived in while in the United States. Her family has moved many times and still doesn’t own a home, she said.

“When you move to the United States, you have this notion of the American dream, but when you get here, it’s nothing at all like you expected,” she said.

For his part, Dadacay’s work examines the influence of western culture on the Philippines and on his own upbringing. Tapia, also a graduate of CSU Los Angeles, crafts sculptures of ramshackle homes and paintings reminiscent of his childhood in Mexico.

If the exhibit goes well, Dadacay said he hopes to organize similar exhibits in other nontraditional venues in Oxnard.

“We’re pretty excited,” he said. “We’re hoping it’s going to be the first of many.”

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