Depicting products “you would only find in a Latinx household”, Javier Fuentes illustrates mundane and ritualistic aspects of life as an immigrant
Using photography, 3D rendering and sound design, Boston-based Javier Fuentes’ project Xtrano explores cultural memory through seemingly ‘everyday’ objects.
- Olivia Hingley
- 8 June 2022
For many, there are some everyday objects that evoke very specific feelings and memories. The brand of “no-tears” shampoo you used as a child, the first alcoholic drink you ever tried, or the hot sauce you finally settled upon after years of testing. Bottling up this sensation of familiarity and applying it to his own personal history and experiences, Javier Fuentes has visualised it in the context of the Latinx immigrant experience. Using objects and products you “would only find in Latinx immigrant households”, the driving force behind the project was Javier’s need and desire to “reconnect” with his roots. “I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of translating memories into something concrete,” he says, “whether it is film, photography or music.”
Born in Cuba, at age five Javier and his family moved to Venezuela “in search of better opportunities”. It was then in 2006 that they moved to Boston, where Javier is now based and the place he considers home. Discussing his experiences of moving from his birthplace at such a young age, Javier explains: “Being an immigrant forces you to adapt to a new environment and you can lose part of your cultural identity in the process.”
His work therefore features numerous domestic goods, all captured in Javier’s hazy, over-saturated, technicolour style, from Bustelo, a brand of coffee Javier explains to be a staple of Cuban-Americans, to Fabuloso, a household cleaner commonly used throughout the Latinx community. The decision to use such style and objects was very intentional, he explains. “I wanted to keep the visuals ambiguous and open to the viewer’s interpretation, that’s why I use objects instead of people as the main subject of all my pieces too.”
A graphic designer and art director by trade, Xtrano also provided a creative outlet for Javier “free of brand guidelines and creative briefs”. Seemingly putting all of Javier’s technical skills to the test, the project was an intensely mixed media process. If Javier happened to have the objects he wanted to include, he would arrange a still life by hand and photograph it. Or, if he didn’t, it would involve a process of 3D rendering. All of the images would then go through a series of digital manipulations with a specific colour palette, allowing for some level of cohesion.
Having been making music for as long as he can remember – beginning as a drummer before experimenting with music production – it seemed only natural that audio would also feature in Javier’s first passion project. Featuring two instrumental pieces, the music has an electronically ethereal feel to it, understandable when hearing some of his recent inspirations: David Lynch and new wave music. “The sound design aspect of this project is the equivalent of a soundtrack to a movie,” Javier details. “I wanted to create a ‘world’ through sound design.” Perfectly complementing Javier’s visuals, the two facets combine to create a truly engrossing, immersive and cinematic experience.
Xtrano: Shiny #1 (Copyright © Javier Fuentes, 2020)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.