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      Meet the Artist Bringing Queer and Chicano Culture Together in a Glorious NSFW Mashup

      March 16, 2016


      "The Means of Pleasure" by Roy Martinez

      "Lick Ass" is not your typical brand name, but it's the English translation for Lambe Culo, the alias for genderfluid visual artist and fashion designer Roy Martinez. In Martinez's artwork, clothing designs reclaim old school cultural terms like "Brown Pride," lucha libre masks substitute gimp masks in BDSM-inspired photoshoots, and harness sculptures are made with the traditional patterns of the Mexican serape.

      The queer, punk, and Chicano cultures are intrinsic influences to Lambe Culo's work, even though they may seem to have irreconcilable differences. Traditional Mexican-American families tend to employ strict gender roles and conservative values, so being queer and Chicano can be complicated. But instead of rejecting Chicano identity, Lambe Culo finds inspiration in it and navigates these tricky aspects through art. "I want to evoke the complexity of my being. I don't just want to do abstract expressionistic stuff. I also want to reference Mesoamerican and indigenous influences because that's just as important as my color theory. Part of being queer is not being set on one thing," Martinez said.

      Originally from Chicago and Texas with roots in Zacatecas, Mexico, Lambe Culo is now in LA finishing up a studio art degree at Cal Arts while maintaining social media celebrity. Lambe Culo's images on Instagram and Tumblr are often sexually provocative, challenging respectability politics at all turns. Unsurprisingly, Martinez's bathtub nudes and simulated cum pics have been censored by Instagram.

      I had a chance to talk with Lambe Culo about sketching Selena outfits, growing up Chicana in Texas, and using art as a means to analyze the fluidity of gender and cultural identities.


      "Homage to Céasar Chávex" by Roy Martinez

      Why Lambe Culo?
      At first it was a joke. I showed my mentor Harry Gamboa Jr., from ASCO [a Chicano art group from the 1960s], a picture of the label Lambe Culo, and he told me I should use it as my brand. It's very abrupt and in your face, and it's resistant to traditional brand names. For me, it rolls off my tongue.

      When you explain it to white people, it's like, "Oh it's 'lick ass.' It's not a typical brand name." When you brand something, it has to be respectful and thought out and not very ratchet or punk. I'm really into punk, so that's why I did it. Also being queer and brown is in a way being punk.

      I fangirled when I saw you at the C'mon Everybody bar in Brooklyn. How does it feel to meet people from the internet who know your internet persona?
      When I went to Mexico, I crashed with a friend from Instagram. We went out, and I think he thought I was going to be out there, like drinking and out of control. It was my first time in Mexico City, and I was shy and very aware of my surroundings. Being queer and non-binary, I have to be cautious of my surroundings. He was like, "What's wrong?" I think he had a vision of me that didn't relate to the real me.

      Your social media image is very punk, intense, sexually overt, but in real life, you're so approachable. I think these dualities such as shy boi and hard femme also reflect in your artwork and fashion design.
      I find the virtual world to be a safe space. I can be who I am without any restraints or confinements. I can be free in that realm, but in real life, you have other constraints. There are weird people in the world out to destroy you. If you're not conforming to their binaries, it's like you're meant to be destructed.


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      Some of the clothes that you make have culturally specific identifier words on them—Xicanx, Cabroncita, Brown Pride. Is there a larger reason for using these words in your clothing line?
      I think part of it is to push an identity forward. I do borrow from old school Chicano aesthetics. While I want to push an identity forward, I also want to rethink it. There are people who are straight or hetero or cis that relate to my work because of Chicano 60s and 70s movimiento (movement) shit. Then there are these new wave queer Chicano/as who also relate to it.

      I don't think many people outside of California and Texas understand the term Chicano, much less Xicanx or Latinx. Can you give me your rundown on the x-ing out of gendered words?
      The word Xicanx is open for interpretation. It has room to move. It's very inclusive for anybody that relates to it. A lot of people are like 'Oh you weren't born in Mexico, so these identifiers exclude you... ' I feel like Xicanx is inclusive to anyone who identifies with it. I'm not an identity politics enforcer. But for me, in general, Xicanx is not being bound to the feminine or masculine aspects. I'm very fluid within myself. I accept both masculinity and femininity equally. It's a word that is new and is still getting meaning. People can interpret it how they feel like. It's not a set thing. I feel like being bound to that is not what Xicanx is. It's fluidity.

      Why do you use pre-Columbian and Mesoamerican images as ancestral references in your work?
      For me, it's empowerment—it's digging up what came before me. You can't move forward without knowing what your past is. It's like, Wow, my people fucking built pyramids. Someone did this without modern machinery. For me, that's why I invoke it—to feel more empowered by my culture or who I am. Assimilation has erased all that. In high school, I didn't know what Mexican really was, what Olmec, Aztec, Mayan, and Mesoamerican identities were. I had to do my own research. It was nothing that I was taught.


      "Sin Tìtulo" by Roy Martinez

      I remember seeing the Chicana punk Alice Bag's book in your studio. Has she influenced you? Who else are your influencers?
      Again, because I wasn't brought up knowing anything about my identity, I've had to research. Alice Bag, a Chicana in the 70s who was in the punk movement, just came up recently. When it comes to punk culture, white cis males are known as the punk innovators or originators. So to see Alice Bag who claims her Chicanidad (Chicano culture) is awesome. Like, "I'm Chicana, and I'm fucking punk!" It was amazing to find her out. Also, the Chicana writers Sandra Cisneros and Gloria Anzaldúa definitely.

      I love your conceptual Selena GIFs! What does Selena mean to you?
      Selena means childhood. I remember when I was 10 or 11, I was sketching her outfits. I don't know if I was inspired by her music, fashion, or by her being a fashion designer. I guess I saw a little bit of myself in her. Being Chicana, being Mexican-American, being Tejana is a connection to her.


      T-shirt for sale on lambeculo.bigcartel.com

      How does the BDSM imagery (harnesses, chokers, chains, etc.) function within your work?
      People automatically associate that work with gay leather-daddy culture, which, yes, I can see that. But, for me, it represents a willful restraint. Especially when I did the harness sculpture with the serape. That represented culture. Yes, I love culture so much, but I'm not able to be who I truly am within my culture sometimes. It's a metaphor for me, for how I feel.

      There's some shit within our culture that is shitty. It's very complex. That's why I identify with Gloria Anzaldúa in Borderlands. She puts it into words so perfectly. When I first read her, I was getting chills and crying. There's a passage where she says she feels mariada (dizzy) from pulling in and out of different cultures. It's part of survival to go in and out of these different cultures.


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      I read that you want to eventually have an art history class based around people of color?
      Yes, that's why I want to get my Master's to be able to make courses that were not available to me. They only have one Chicana feminism class here that they offer once a year. There's no other Chicano/a course that they offer at all. And that class was very valuable to me. It gave me terminology that I didn't know existed, words I could relate to my practice. When I learned about terms like "rasquache" and "domesticana," I was like that's definitely what my art is. Rasquache is doing with what you have. Domesticana is using what you have around the house, which is totally inspired by my mom.

      Do you feel your art is rebelling against everything at once—overwhelmingly white art institutions, homophobic society at large, and traditional and conservative values of the Chicano/Mexicano culture? We also have to admit that, within our culture, there is a lot of misogyny, homophobia, anti-blackness.
      Yes. It's kind of overwhelming to think that I have all these things on my back. There are days where I just want to be me. Like this is really heavy, but that's where art comes in—where I can have that freedom to express myself without any constraints.

      Purchase Lambe Culo gear.

      Visit Barbara's website .

      Topics: gay, queer, ass lick, lambe culo, mexican, spanish, chicano, mesoamerican, Barbara Calderón-Douglass, Selena, nsfw

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