Félix D'Eon doesn’t have a name for his latest art series, but that hasn't stopped people from asking for it.
“I'm just calling it gay lotería, but I think I'm going to give it an actual title later on,” D'Eon said in a telephone interview from his studio in Mexico City.
D'Eon, 36, is reimagining the traditional “Mexican bingo”—or lotería— by putting a queer twist on the 54 iconic images that adorn the original game's deck of cards.
The original game, introduced in 1887, came with 10 game boards and a deck of cards featuring simple illustrations such as a hand, a human heart, and a parrot.
Artists have long been inspired by the classic card illustrations, but D'Eon is giving the entire set of cards a makeover for the queer Latinx community.
“Everything I do is queering something that wasn't queer to begin with,” D'Eon said. “All of my work is about creating a place where you feel like you belong.”
In some cases the card redo is a slight tweak to an existing image, while in other cases the Chicano artist creates an entirely new card altogether. For example, D'Eon's remake of the “La Sirena” (the mermaid) card shows a topless merman floating on the sea, while a completely new card design titled “La Muxe” shows a member of the Zapotec cultures of Oaxaca that are redefining gender norms in Mexico.
Some cards have a double meaning for gay men, while others have a deeper meaning for other members of the LGBTQ community. In the card for "El Pañuelo," a brown-skinned male figure is seen with a yellow bandana hanging from his jeans, which has a special “gay hanky code” meaning.
D'Eon says he plans each card for his gay lotería series with his assistants. His friends help him bring that concept to life by reenacting a scene that D'Eon photographs. After he has the photo, he then traces the image and paints the rest of the scene. He often shares images of that creative process with his nearly 35,000 followers on Instagram.
D'Eon was born in Guadalajara to a Mexican mother and a French father. He moved to the U.S. at the age of 12 and grew up in Moreno Valley in Southern California. He says he grew up surrounded by his Latino family, but in a community that was mostly white.
"If you grew up as a Hispanic American in the U.S. there's a sense of alienation because the culture at large doesn't speak to you,” D'Eon said.
Most of D'Eon’s art customers are in the United States, but he says the majority of his social media fan base is in Mexico.
D'Eon says many people, "gay or not," are responding enthusiastically to his latest gay loteria collection.
He said he sells most of his work online on his website and on Etsy.
“People are charmed by seeing these stereotypical images presented in a fresh way. The work speaks to straight people in a fresh way, and for queer people, it speaks to them,” D'Eon said.