Coordinators of a one-night show at the Hobbs Building have a lot of space; now all they need are some artists to fill it.

Plan B 

Coordinators of a one-night show at the Hobbs Building have a lot of space; now all they need are some artists to fill it.

Jenny Mendez of the Mattie Rhodes Art Center and painter Maria Boyd have big plans for a group show, called Sopa de Arte: A Tasty Mixture of Latino Artists. When they speak with the Pitch, however, they don't know exactly who will contribute to that tasty blend. Mendez and Boyd talk about a "wait and see" strategy and what they'll do "if all else fails," and they note that "there's always plan B." As of one week before the show, the coordinators know more about plan B than plan A.

Jean-Paul Chaurand of the Hispanic Economic Development Corporation is in charge of the logistics. He works in the West Bottoms artists' haven known as the Hobbs Building, and it was his idea to coordinate an event showcasing the wide range of works by Kansas City's Latino artists with one of the building's Open Studios nights. He saw the partnership as an opportunity for Latino artists to counter the prevalent misconception that their work is all about "the same old Cinco de Mayo, fiesta kind of thing."

He envisioned a one-night art show with some music and poetry to round out the evening. So he secured the space, noting that he didn't want anything "too uppity" because he thought that might intimidate the artists he hoped would get involved. "What better place than the West Bottoms?" he reflects. "We live in the west side, we grew up there, and we support each other."

But his cousin, Mendez, is "the one who does [the art] side of it." She opened the gallery annex of the Mattie Rhodes Arts Center almost three years ago, and she has connections with artists in the Latino community. Although she has put in a lot of calls and expects about a dozen artists to participate, she doesn't know for sure who will show up. "Like anything else, it comes together somehow," she says.

Boyd, one of the few artists who have committed to showing their work, explains, "I don't know if it's a cultural thing or what. Maybe we're just overconfident that it will all come together. The really good thing about the Hispanic community is, if you need something, all you have to do is make a call."

Boyd will display paintings from a collection she calls Retrogenitals. The paintings are brightly colored, with such chromatic combinations as lime and turquoise that remind her of retro textiles. As for the other part of the title -- the "genitals" part -- she says, "A lot of my work is really phallic." She points to a canvas with a red fish swimming through the looping handle of a container. Seemingly scandalized by her own title, she laughs and explains that a friend coined the term "retrogenitals" during a conversation about older people having sex. "It's like cool retro stuff. You know it's old, but does it still work?"

According to Chaurand, work such as Boyd's will help artists in the Latino community, many of whom are not classically trained and have not been preened for the gallery scene, show Kansas City that they're capable of creating art that goes beyond culturally specific Latino themes. "They're artists, period."

And if Boyd's paintings -- so new, they're still wet -- are any indication, the guests who stop by on Friday will be among the first to know what the big picture looks like.

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