Cruise Night

Current Project

Cruise Night is a glimpse at the beauty, grace and complexities of the car as a mobile canvas. It is an intimate, unstaged exploration of the female gaze and cultural politics in Los Angeles’ lowrider car culture. Since 2015, I have spent four years immersed in the Mexican American lowrider community making these images.

The term “lowrider” refers to both a customized car and its driver. While lowriding is an international phenomenon, it has a unique significance for Mexican Americans in Los Angeles as the customization of a car is intertwined with having a political and cultural voice. For decades, this community has responded to its struggle to achieve political representation with bold displays of visual identity. A landmark moment, the 1943 Zoot Suit riots, erupted as white U.S. Navy servicemen responded to Mexican American teenagers displaying stylish, flowing suits and spirited independence by stripping and beating them. In the 1960s and ‘70s, youth continued to manifest their visibility and political voice through school walkouts, the Chicano Moratorium and other forms of protest. During this energized period, the art form developed by the 1940s Zoot Suiters of transforming their cars to reflect their personal style blossomed into a full-fledged artistic movement known as “lowriding." 

Since its beginnings, the lowrider tradition provided a platform for young Mexican Americans, primarily male, to have a voice and be seen. Today there are tens of thousands of lowriders in Los Angeles. The movement is prolific, yet it maintains an element of invisibility in greater society. Lowriding is often pigeonholed by the art world as simplistic folk art and stereotyped by the media as crude and dangerous. I have seen a different reality – a sophisticated and beautiful tradition of self-expression that is passed down between generations.

It is not common that a woman creates a body of work around lowriding. Since the inception of the automobile, car culture of all kinds has been dominated by the male perspective. Making pictures as a woman in a space traditionally defined by men, and of a practice traditionally used to represent masculinity, places my work in tension with the prevailing depictions of lowriding. 

With Cruise Night, I am offering an invitation to question all of these assumptions and stereotypes, and rethink the visual narrative around this often-overlooked American art form. It was an honor to be welcomed into the lowrider family and my hope is that these images begin to touch on the nuance, mystery and depth that I witnessed.