“Houston Cultura”

Chuy Benitez likes to mess with your mind. At the exhibit “Houston Cultura,” you’ll see how.

Benitez took portraits of people representing local Hispanic culture, including community leader Macario Ramirez and singer Karina Nistal. “The portraits have a front view and a back view of the person in the same photograph,” Benitez says. “The images are meant to look very realistic, but they are also messing with your mind. They’re in actuality combination shots and meant to show you the way that I view people in general. I don’t want to just view the person; I’m also looking at the things that they surround themselves with.”

Other photographs are wrap-around panoramic shots, like La Virgen de la Baking Pan (The Virgin of the Baking Pan), which shows a group of people crowded around a shrine built around a baking pan that has a supposed image of the Virgin Mary burned onto it. And there’s Family Chrome Shop, with three generations of a family playing and working in the waiting room/office of an auto repair shop. “When I walked in, I was just thrown back by all the activities that were going on in that building,” says Benitez. “It took me a while to get the shot. I went back several times. This one day I waited a few hours before there was finally this crescendo of action. That’s a family business, and for them, when they look at it, that’s a family photo.” 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Through April 12. Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main. For information, call 713-528-5858 or visit www.lawndaleartcenter.org. Free.
Mondays-Saturdays. Starts: March 7. Continues through April 12, 2008

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