Luis Sahagun: Both Eagle and Serpent

Opening: Saturday, Feb 1, 2020 2 – 4 pm
Saturday, Feb 1 – Apr 26, 2020

78 E. Washington
Chicago, IL 60602

Michigan Avenue Galleries, 1st Floor East

Luis A. Sahagun: Both Eagle and Serpent is an expansive solo exhibition of new work by the Chicago-based visual artist at the Chicago Cultural Center in the Michigan Avenue Galleries. The solo show opens on Saturday, February 1, 2020, with a reception from 2-4 pm and is on view through Sunday, April 26.

Both Eagle and Serpent is an exhibition presenting an artistically constructed and colorful mythology as an act of cultural resistance and reclamation. Working at the intersection of migration, race, gender, and socio-economic status, the exhibition challenges preconceived notions of what it means to be the immigrant, the other and marginalized from Sahagun’s point of view as a Latinx artist. Both Eagle and Serpent presents a wide body of intricate paintings, drawings, and sculptures that combine beads, rope, jute, icons, concrete, lumber, and drywall, which simultaneously celebrate and critically look at his relationship with his hybrid cultural origins and identity. Sahagun is a previously undocumented immigrant, former laborer, ex-gang member, grandson of a curandera, educator and studio artist. He comes from a cultural lineage of Indigenous alchemy and spirituality and European imperialism, which hybridized traditions, histories, and belief systems. Sahagun’s mythology reflects on the integration of these ancestral parts to impart a holistic understanding of the present and himself in the world. 

The exhibition title, Both Eagle and Serpent, is inspired by the queer and feminist Chicana writer, Gloria Anzaldúa whose seminal book, Borderlands is a meditation on the binaries of male and female gender, patriarchal and matriarchal order, and the critique and celebration of a dual culture. The eagle-and-serpent symbol is represented on the Mexican flag and is derived from the pre-Hispanic Mexica story of Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, who guided people to an eagle perched on a cactus with a serpent in its beak. The eagle symbolizes the spirit of the sun, the paternal figure of war, Huitzilopochtli. The serpent symbolizes the human soul as the maternal figure, Tonantzin. Together they connote the struggle between male and female. As Anzaldúa points out, the symbolic sacrifice of the serpent to the ostensibly “higher” masculine power indicates the patriarchal order vanquishing the matriarchal order of indigenous Mesoamerica. 

For Sahagun, Both Eagle and Serpent means to honor and represent both masculine and feminine energy as an artistic device to heal. It’s a mythology that celebrates ancient beginnings and shapes new contemporary identities in his artwork. Through experiencing spiritual and psychic interventions, Sahagun has learned that he harbors feminine energy in a male-presenting body. Both Eagle and Serpent, as an exhibition and symbolic reference, opens up a conversation about gender, power, conquest, trauma, and survival.

Luis A. Sahagun: Both Eagle & Serpent is organized by Teresa Silva, in collaboration with the artist, and with generous support from the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

1. February 29 - Totemic Ancestor Dolls Workshop with Luis A. Sahagun and Teresa Silva.
2. March 14 -  Monument, an interactive sculpture that visitors can embellish with materials provided and learn about the significance of beads as coded language for resistance in art and craft.
3. April 25 - Tianquiztli or Tianguis, a traditional pop-up market that dates back to ancient Mesoamerica. Shoppers will find local Chicago vendors offering cultural items for sale.