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KCET: Corn Man, A Mexican-Inspired Animistic Sculpture Arrives in Santa Ana and Los Angeles

Liz Goldner

Performance art in Latin America was prolific from the 1960s to 80s — at a time of aggressive authoritarianism. As the political climate evolved there in the 1990s, this interdisciplinary art genre advanced with a new generation of artists exploring its possibilities.

“Corn Man,” a Latin American-inspired art piece — scheduled for performances in Santa Ana and other U.S. cities — is a life-size seated mannequin, completely covered with dried corn kernels. Currently installed in Otis College’s “Talking to Action: Art, Pedagogy, and Activism in the Americas” exhibition, he was assembled by artist Alfadir Luna of Mexico City, and by Alejandro Olivares, a Cal State Fullerton art student, in September in downtown Santa Ana.

Corn Man is a proxy of the original Señor del Maíz, who was built by Luna in 2006 in Mexico City’s “La Merced” downtown public market. When Luna presented his corn sculpture concept to the Mexican merchants, many embraced the idea and even took on responsibility for the animistic figure’s various body parts. In time, Señor del Maíz became a major figure in La Merced’s ceremonies and processions — as he was said to be imbued with spiritual powers, and with the capacity to bring fortune to all who interact with him. These downtown market processions occur Luna says, “on the first Tuesday of the first crescent moon in October, or a time of rebirth.”

Why then build a sculpture of corn in Santa Ana and display him at Otis College of Art and Design? 

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Talking To Action: Art, Pedagogy, and Activism in the Americas will be on view through December 10, 2018. Visit the Ben Maltz Gallery page for more information. 

Image: Alfadir Luna, El Señor del Maíz, 2012. Chromogenic print. Photo: Anayatzin Ortiz.