Most people know his acting and comedy, especially his movies and recordings with counterculture collaborator Tommy Chong. But there’s a whole lot more to Cheech Marin than you’d imagine. He’s also a major player in the art world.

Marin owns the world’s largest collection of Chicano art, with over 700 pieces. Now he’s sharing part of his collection with Texans in the exhibit ‘Los Tejanos: Chicano Art from the collection of Cheech Marin’ at the Art Museum of South Texas in Corpus Christi.

“All my life when I went to art museums, big or small, I noticed that there was nobody on their walls that looked like me,” he says.

Once he started collecting pieces, he realized that there was a central school of thought that was informing all of the work – the identity of the Chicano people. He says Corpus Christi is the right place to show the art because it’s part of the diaspora.

“I think this is the fourth or fifth show I’ve done at this museum because it speaks to their audience,” he says. “Not just to Latinos or Chicanos that are in that area, but to everybody in that area because they grow up in that same diaspora.”

Marin says the definition of Chicano identity is generally in flux – for instance, now it might include some Central Americans.

“It’s a voluntary category,” he says. “You have to declare yourself a Chicano in order to be a Chicano. Every Mexican-American is not automatically a Chicano. It denotes a certain political and social mindset.”

He says the art in the exhibit, which will be on display in Corpus Christi until April 29, is political, but it speaks more to human rights issues than to any specific policy.

 

Written by Jen Rice.

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