"Escombros" by Luis Sahagun Breathes Life to the Lifeless, on Extra

he raw and distorted figures call for the observer’s undivided attention. This is the kind of impression Luis Sahagun’s “Escombros” exhibit is making. The Spanish word “escombros” means “debris,” but this title only begins to describe what his art exemplifies.

Hailing from Ford Heights, formerly known as East Chicago Heights, Sahagun grew up knowing how to make do with his surroundings. At the trailer park where he lived, he and his friends were left to their own devices and imaginations. They would find scrap wood, pieces of metal and plastics, and put them together using his dad’s tools.

“My dad was a maker, a doer. The culture of the working class was instilled in me. My parents would just work and work,” he said. Sahagun’s dad drove a truck and his mom was a waitress. “My dad had stories of how he fixed a car in the middle of the Mexican desert using his own belt,” he shared. Early on, Sahagun’s dad was tempted to pull him out of school to help support the family, but he didn’t. Sahagun finished school and pursued his studies at Southern Illinois University.

The culmination of his life experiences, and the stories handed down to him are reflective in his creations. “The process is as important as the art,” he said. “I take cardboard, paint it, glue it, layer it and then take an electric saw and deconstruct and disfigure it,” he added. “It’s a metaphor for life. It’s beautiful, cut up and beat up. There’s a harshness of emotions,” he shared. Sahagun uses automotive paint, nail polish, and even lipstick in some of his pieces. He integrates tools of the construction trade such as drywall, joint compound, cement and wood, finding most of his supplies on the street. “The materials are already beautiful,” he said. While studying product design, Sahagun became enthralled by the possibilities. Today, he is working towards his master’s degree in Art Design at Northern Illinois.

Sahagun’s work sets the stage for social conversations about the bleak realities of life, about people and their stories. “Anything is possible with hard work. You can always go one step further,” he shared. “Work hard and work smart,” he added.

“Escombros” will be showing at the Kruger Gallery, 3709 N. Southport in Chicago through May 2.

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