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New Mexicans know what a Lowrider is. Most have likely seen their elaborate detailing and flashy rims parading Central Avenue. Lowrider art can now be found in one of the National Hispanic Cultural Center's gallery. At the opening of the exhibit this past weekend, the proprietors of "Low 'n' Slow: Lowriding in New Mexico" discussed their attraction to this rarely acknowledged art form.

Carmella Padilla, a UNM graduate and coauthor of the partner book to the exhibit, came into the project knowing little about cars and even less about Lowriders.

However, upon venturing to Espa┬žola and Northern New Mexico, Padilla discovered this vast art form and found herself "impressed and inspired." The elaborately designed vehicles are the product of hours upon hours of labor.

Their creators "want so much to be validated for their work," Padilla said.

Although the exhibit only occupies one room of the gallery, it is apparent, through the unyielding love of the artists, that this contemporary tradition deserves positive recognition.

Jack Parsons, photographer of the "Low and Slow" book and exhibit, was also inspired by the art that he saw in these vehicles. So much so that he decided to take on the documentary project in 1996 and present it to the rest of the world. In his photos, Parsons shows the cultural aspects of lowrider art.

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The conspicuous beauty of the cars is highlighted with a New Mexican backdrop. Parsons describes his subject as "aesthetic, but more importantly, a cultural representation."

Lowriders exist elsewhere in the United States and the world, but the focus of this exhibit is on New Mexico. The Lowrider tradition in New Mexico is very family and community oriented, as displayed by this exhibit. The proprietors invested their time into this project to acknowledge the artists and, more importantly replace any negative stereotypes about Lowrider culture with a positive image.

The exhibit, in Albuquerque through Dec. 9, is something that captures New Mexican and Hispanic tradition. Juan Estevan Arellano, poet and coauthor of "Low `n' Slow: Lowriding in New Mexico" stresses the attitude of Lowrider art. The creation of these unique objects of beauty is important to the artists because it "makes them proud of who they are."

The National Hispanic Cultural Center is at 1701 Fourth St. SW. For more information, call 246-2261.


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