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DOC/UNDOC: A Project of Moving Parts Press

Doc/Undoc at the Sesnon Gallery + Guillermo Gómez-Peña in Performance

“DOC/UNDOC” functions as the short name of a larger art project called Documentado/Undocumented Ars Shamánica Performática. The brainchild of book artist and publisher Felicia Rice, DOC/UNDOC includes work of performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña, art historian Jennifer González, sound artist Zachary Watkins, video artist Gustavo Vazquez, and of course Rice herself, functioning as a printmaker, book artist, and publisher. Under Rice’s direction, they collectively produced what González characterizes as a “Gesamtkunstwerk” in her informative and insightful critical essay, itself a component of the project. And DOC/UNDOC encompasses performance, video, literature, printmaking, drawing, painting, sculpture, sound, and video—a “total work of art” indeed, if a far cry from Richard Wagner. The project was shown last fall in the Mary Porter Sesnon Gallery at UC Santa Cruz, accompanied by a new and distinct one-night performance by Gómez-Peña in the black box theater at the Digital Arts Research Center on campus. In this commentary I’ll touch on both the installation of DOC/UNDOC in the Sesnon Gallery and on Gómez-Peña’s sprawling, intensely affecting solo performance as well. But before I get started, full disclosure: the Institute of the Arts and Sciences co-sponsored DOC/UNDOC, and I am working with the Sesnon Gallery on two projects at present, so I am not an uninterested or objective bystander. I am, as well, a long-time fan of Gómez-Peña’s work, a colleague of González, Rice, and Vasquez, and happily so. Readers may do with this what they wish.

Read More of the essay by John Weber

First, the exhibition. DOC/UNDOC presents itself as a seven-year effort in which, as Rice notes, “an unlikely group of collaborators re/imagine the future of bookmaking.” Visitors to the Sesnon Gallery encountered the accordion-format book itself, unfolded and upright, displayed snaking over long, curving tables. An earlier book by Rice was also on view, also shown open and upright. On a nearby pedestal stood DOC/UNDOC’s “deluxe edition” in a custom aluminum case. It takes the form of an elaborate audio-visual treasure box housing a “shamanic” performance kit complete with sound effects, kitschy-campy objets d’art, a vanity mirror, and a fake fur frame. On the gallery wall, videos from the book’s accompanying DVD played in a loop.

The two voices at the center of the exhibition and indeed the project are those of Rice and Gómez-Peña. His words, body, and performative presence suffuses DOC/UNDOC. Rice’s images and work as project director foregrounds him. In the book she offers a layered visual track under and alongside his words, leveraging his psycho-personal-political-poetic voice into a series of high pitch, often-nightmarish images. Demented clowns, tigers, cartoon figures, skeletons, and the Grim Reaper populate this world, and inflect his voice on the page. Vasquez’s videos are to the point, offering short bursts of “GGP,” as he sometimes calls himself, in action. Although less suited to the gallery setting, the critical essay by Jennifer González offers an excellent introduction to the deluxe edition of the book-box and the ways it riffs on books arts and art boxes from Marcel Duchamp to Fluxus. I recommend it highly.

Showing artists’ books in a gallery always poses a challenge. The experiential mode of the gallery differs from that of a book, even an illustrated book. Galleries are for looking while standing, often conversing with friends or family, in a public zone. In contrast, books tend to be private matters. Sitting down to read a book takes you out of social space and into an intimate, internal zone. In the case of DOC/UNDOC, both the book and the personal performance kit of the deluxe edition seem aimed partially at solitary acts of reading, looking, contemplation, and imaginative play. Gallery visitors encountering a book always confront the question, “How much of this must I read to get it? Am I willing to put in the time…?”

That said, in the Sesnon Gallery the ragged intensity of Rice’s imagery and the short bursts of Gómez-Peña’s performance texts offered a visual-verbal experience that worked for me. And while the default “please do not touch” atmosphere of an art gallery seemingly contradicts the subversive, “please play with me” attitude of the deluxe edition of the book, this is precisely the point. DOC/UNDOC centers obliquely but inescapably on the divisively public issues of immigration, hybrid identities, and border crossing. It does so through the medium of graphic art, performance art, performance scripts by Gómez-Peña, video, and critical commentary. The public dimension at the heart of the project is therefore clear. DOC/UNDOC confronts issues we can’t avoid, can’t refuse to consider, not here, not now. The recent refugee crises in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central America, and the emergence of the Trump campaign’s ugly attacks on immigrants in the Western Hemisphere only underline the themes that DOC/UNDOC explores.

The tenor of the current political moment and what it feels like to an engaged, idiosyncratically activist artist like Gómez-Peña were on brilliant display in “Imaginary Activism: The Role of the Artist Beyond the Art World,” a solo performance at UC Santa Cruz on Nov. 6 at the DARC black box theater. Performing two days after widespread Republican victories in the mid-term elections, he termed the evening a “living archive” of past work, “up until last night.” He moved widely between topics and themes common to his work over the past two decades and more. Yet rather than feeling like a best hits anthology, “Imaginary Activism” was a bravura, brutally honest summing up of where, at 59 years old, Gómez-Peña found himself on that day, in front of that audience. I saw the piece that evening, and I have watched it again on video in preparation for this commentary.

Gómez-Peña took the stage wearing a get up that combined male, female, native American, punk, and hipster garb, describing himself as a “vernacular philosopher in deviant shamanic drag,” “a spoken word DJ,” a “linguistic tightrope walker and a mariachi with a big mouth.” There is no way to convey on paper or in words-on-screen the sprawling brilliance and intensely personal-political nature of the episodic performance that followed. It was hilarious, sarcastic, biting, painfully honest, and deeply sobering. Over the course of 80 minutes, he mused on the nature of performance art, language, his own complex performance persona and career. But above all, Gómez-Peña ruminated on contemporary politics as seen from his distinct, dissident position as a long-time Mexican resident of the USA, an internationally acclaimed, MacArthur Fellowship award-winning performance artist and poet, a man of color and political activist. As he commented at one point, “Yes I am obsessed with political speeches. Some performance artists are frustrated rockers. Others are bad, or rather enigmatic activists. And I am both.”

His piece was a utopian lament for a dystopian era, a plea for art, poetry, and literature in a time and country that have, in his telling, little use for either, really, except as existential window dressing and political alibi. It was also a plea for justice—an accusation and a set of demands delivered in full recognition of the impossibility of collecting on his claims, proclaimed with complete moral authority and the confidence of one who has nothing to lose, and knows it full well. At one point, he imagined himself the “first Mexican President of the U.S.,” and proceeded to fantasize about everything he would do, including establishing “nude universities” and “deporting neocons and paleocons… Feels great to imagine! What else do we have at this point in time?”

After asking why American politicians are constantly invoking god, he offered a shouted litany of “God Blesses” to countries, peoples, and places that rarely if ever grace the lips of a presidential or senatorial candidate. This included enemies such as North Korea and Iran, hemisphere neighbors such as Ecuador and Canada (“for protocol reasons”), the Iroquois and other indigenous North American peoples, and more.

At another point, Gómez-Peña observed, “I don’t believe in government. I don’t believe it is possible to correct the problem from within the system. The system is the problem.” And, “the very same politicians who forced us into globalization and free trade across borders don’t want us to be bilingual…and I wonder if you can be a monolingual member of a multilingual community?” He proceeded to read an open letter to the Governor of Arizona and right wing media figures such as Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly, proposing to delete all Spanish words from the English and American lexicon, including all proper names for cities, states, and places, along with “Santa Cruz” and “California.”

In passage after passage, Gómez-Peña retained the anger of youth, leavened now with a tinge of desperation fed both by age and wisdom. Between the jokes, you could hear bruised hopes still surviving after years of creative effervescence and improvisatory self-reinvention in the face of insurmountable odds. He offered a high wire act, determined to embrace both his own and the world’s contradictions without a net below, attempting to cross a chasm of rage and disappointment a million miles deep. You could accuse Gómez-Peña of sentimentality if his humor didn’t have such a sharp edge. And he takes aim repeatedly at himself, his calling as a performance artist, and the contradictions it entails.

“The crucial question here is where does one find the spiritual energy to continue, when you don’t believe in mainstream politics and institutionalized religion gives you the creeps? What to do when you are too old to belong to a subculture and participate in the global rave, and too strange to get a chic job in academia? Where do we locate our dissent when dissent is a corporate product, an HBO special, a perfume…or when kids can simply wear a T-shirt that says ‘Art is Resistance’ and think the job is done… I mean what to do when all the master discourses and epic narratives of hope are bankrupt.

Gómez-Peña’s sense of himself as both an outsider and insider was a topic he returned to often, at one point observing that, “if you comply too much, you lose your voice, your sharp edges, your culo, you become someone you dislike, and one day when you least expect it, they send you back to the margins to wait and wait and wait for a second chance that rarely comes.” I wondered at this point what students and younger audience members would make of this insight from a veteran of the art world “culture wars” of the late 1980s and 1990s, looking back on a remarkable career in a time of aesthetic, political, and economic tumult. But it is the part that came next which was the most telling: “…or should you succeed in preserving your ethics, uncompromised, you will eventually be rendered so marginal that no one would know that it was your choice in the first place to remain inconsequential.”

Re-experiencing this gut-wrenching passage again on video while working on this commentary, I was sobered by Gómez-Peña’s willingness to expose internal contradictions bred by his life as a political artist for nearly three decades. Tapping that deep legacy, he conjured a poetry of despair struggling with hope throughout the evening. “In my world,” he said, “political candidates are not politicians, they are artists and literati, visionaries, not functionaries!”

“The country I would like to live in only exists in Planet Poetry and Planet Performance… Where imagination is the only law. Art is part of everyday life, and everyone practices what they believe. Imagination is my Nation. That’s where I wish to live and die.”

The evening concluded with a focus on the here and now, with Gómez-Peña first proposing the possibility of small utopia of himself and his audience in a single place, if only for that moment. Directly addressing, “you, my audience,” he said,

“My hope is not connected to god, country, or economy…. It is always located on the other side of the border, or mirror…or in animals I have never seen. In this very moment, my hope is located in your arms. I want to hug you…but there is a formidable border that separates me from your body, and it’s called, the proscenium…. And despite a century of attempts by the avant garde to destroy it, it remains intact, even in performance art.”

Then asking if it is possible to love “as if the Patriot Act didn’t exist, as if there were no iPads or iPhones,” he softly replied, “I think we can.”

Despite this offer of a happy ending, however temporary and provisional, Gómez-Peña returned, before closing, to reiterate the underlying theme of the evening: the need to accept and embrace contradiction and hybrid identities in an age of border crossing and cultural upheaval. As he put it, “My community is not confined by ideological, national, or ethnic boundaries. Mine is a community of difference, and therefore it is fragmented, ever-changing, and temporary, and that’s how I like it.”

Anyone growing up in an advanced capitalist country is raised on an unending diet of stories in the mass media, organized religion, and education that proclaim the ideal of a unified human consciousness. This notion of the individual assumes that however complex our identity may be, it aspires to escape internal conflicts, to achieve an internal, psychic balance, to be one entity, one “centered” being. On every level, Guillermo Gómez-Peña rejects this possibility today. His performance at UC Santa Cruz was an eloquent, harrowing argument for his position and its political, artistic, and psychological inescapability for anyone who is awake and aware in the world that we now live in.

—John Weber

John Weber is Founding Director of the Institute of Arts and Sciences at University of California, Santa Cruz.

Artist Statement: Collaboration and Metamorphosis

DOC/UNDOC is the sequel to CODEX ESPANGLIENSIS, which I published in 1998. The CODEX was a collaboration between Guillermo Gómez-Peña, writer/activist, Enrique Chagoya, artist/printmaker, and myself, bookmaker/printer. Nine years later, while discussing who would be the visual artist for DOC/UNDOC with our collaborator Gustavo Vazquez, Guillermo turned to me and asked, “Do you draw?”

Read More of the essay by Felicia Rice

At three, I ran to my mother because my big sister had made me cry, and my mother said, “Draw it, draw what happened.” When your mother is a children’s art teacher, and she sees art as the way to process any and all experience, you draw, and you write, and there’s resistance when you don’t. So I responded, “Yes, I draw,” even though I had rarely incorporated my drawings into my bookwork. Guillermo said, “You draw,” in the imperative. It was imperative that I did.

Collaboration is an active acknowledgement of the other, a call and response. What results from the mix has unique merit. In this seven-year collaboration I experienced a profound metamorphosis. I slowly emerged from behind my elegant typography and careful craft, explored and privileged my markmaking, and pulled it into my prints. As we added collaborators to the group—Jennifer González, art historian/critic and Zachary Watkins, sound artist—over dinners, in meetings, and through correspondence, another element developed: the aluminum traveling case for apprentice shamans. Only five hearts and minds could have conceived of this invitation to a self-reflective and transformative experience.

My parents were art students in New York City in the early ’40s, and were influenced by the Mexican artists working in this country, and by the marriage of art and politics. Their friends were friends of Frida Kahlo’s, and had apprenticed to Diego Rivera. Peripatetic after the war, my parents set out in an old station wagon from Vermont with their two tiny daughters to work with the muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros in San Miguel de Allende. It’s family lore that the two girls nearly died, that my father raced to Mexico City and procured a new, exotic medicine that saved their lives and allowed the family to retreat to the western United States.

Early exposure to the Mexican artists and their American apprentices eventually led me to collaborate with Latino writers and artists of my own generation. Early exposure to the work of Mexican printmaker José Guadalupe Posada led me to the work of Artemio Rodríguez, a contemporary printmaker whose work is inspired by that of Posada, and to John Jota Leaños, and to their collaborative “El Muertorider,” an image of which appears in the book. Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s performance script, “Tired of Walking North,” is paired here with the ‘art car’ tilted up and planted in the soil of the desert like those of Ant Farm’s Cadillac Ranch, an installation in Texas dating from 1974. This page spread speaks to the treacherous walk through the desert toward opportunity beckoning in the north. Would this be the car you’d hope to find, or the illusion that would inspire one more step (as the text suggests) toward marvelous possibilities or deep disappointment?

The books I make are informed by both digital and analog processes. In making them I pass back and forth between the digital and the tangible, between setting type letter by letter on the screen, and setting type letter by letter from a 19th-century type case. I print my negatives from a computer to a laser printer, burn photopolymer relief plates, and print images from these surfaces on a 50-year-old letterpress. I build a textured surface of dust from the US-Mexico border, varnish it, run inky rollers over that landscape and print straight from the earth to the paper. I make a hundred sketches, choose thirty, scan and manipulate them on screen, make plates, cut them up and collage together images of twisted bodies, a tiger drooling a melange of fonts, a wild man tearing his hair, skeletons or calaveras in loving embrace.

What color ink will I pick this morning? What relationships exist between the images? What visual dynamic? And how can this print be consistent with, yet different from the last? I start with white ink, add some transparency for viscosity, then red, blue, for a lavender. How will this reveal what is below, and how will it suggest what color or image comes next? Is this spread sincere and caring, or leering and challenging? I’m trying to create a love/hate relationship out of the layers of color and the images and the text, one that hurts a bit, but can make you laugh while it bites your neck. I apply color to the press, place the printing plates in position and pull the first proof. This is a performative moment for me, a critical audience of one. Satisfied, I step off into the press run, exercising the principles of my craft: checking the impression, finding the best inking and maintaining it, making sure the plates don’t move any more than I’m willing to accept, keeping the sheet clean. A rhythm takes hold and I continue, exhausted and anxious and elated.

My work has moved from the traditional structured page of marching letterforms carefully avoiding one another, to a crazy, intimate dance performed by friends who know one another very well. As McLuhan pointed out a half-century ago, we’re living in a visual world, a multi-lingual world where we communicate more and more with signs and symbols. We rely upon the rules and conventions of wordcraft and typographic nuance, but not all the time. The rules are both stultifying and lovely; stifling but truly elegant. Text is a layer that drives my work, informs the visual experience, and has a place on every page I print.

I came to an understanding of beauty through craft. I recognize it when the work measures up to and transcends its own standard of excellence, when the final piece is fully resolved—perfect.

—Felicia Rice

 

Performance Video:  Guillermo Gómez-Peña & Gustavo Vazquez


Sound Art Zachary Watkins


Critical Commentary: Jennifer González
Documentado/Undocumented: Transgress, Transcend, Transform

What does it mean to be documented or undocumented? How do these terms work across borders and boundaries such as those that exist between nations and language? What are the forms of policing and regulation that maintain such categories out of fear, cultural difference or economic domination? What parts of our lives are documented and what parts remain undocumented?

Read More of the essay by Jennifer González

These are the questions that underlie the decidedly shrewd, collaborative and experimental artwork-in-a-box by Guillermo Gomez-Peña, Gustavo Vasquez, Felicia Rice and Zachary Watkins. In a contemporary gesture toward the Wagnerian “total work of art” or gesamtkunstwerk the project combines the fine art of the printed book with sound, video, and a playful kit of objects to explore and to heal what might be seen as the cultural, social and historical rifts that exist between the United States and Mexico. The idea is to invite viewers into an intimate space of engagement that addresses all the senses: tactile, olfactory, aural and visual. Although it is a contemporary work of art, the aluminum case has an antique feel with hand-wrought hinges and knobs. Opening it, we are exposed to the treasures within, unfolding a triptych to reveal ourselves reflected in mirrors. As we move through the various sound elements and explore the objects housed in individual niches, we are drawn in by curiosity. Even the sense of taste (including bad taste) is leveraged in a playful way; but the broader social concerns are deadly serious. How can we see this artwork as part of a longer tradition of conceptual art, religious reliquaries, indigenous medicine practices, and camp theatricality? How do these diverse histories invite a peculiar cohesion in the final product?

As a work of contemporary art, it is possible to read Documentado/Undocumented as situated squarely within a long tradition of experimental, conceptual portable-art practice. For example, Marcel Duchamp’s Boite-en-Valise [Box in a Suitcase] (1948) contained miniature versions of the artist’s most famous works of art, materializing the idea of a private museum-in-box and serving as a monument to the importance of its maker. The Boite-en-Valise unfolds into a triptych-like display that includes replicas of paintings glued to poster boards and miniature sculptures in carefully constructed niches, inviting an interpretive oscillating between the case of a traveling salesman and a religious altar.

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Inspired by such projects, Fluxus artists in Europe and the United States of the 1960s built elaborate “flux boxes” or “fluxkits” that contained found and fabricated objects as well as “event scores” that invited participants to perform specific actions with the objects, or with each other. Fluxkits leveraged the colorful aesthetic of commercially marketed board games that were popular at the time, and included participation by sound artists like John Cage whose compositional scores included all manner of materials and unconventional actions on the part of performers and audience alike.

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Documentado/Undocumented echoes this history of conceptual and experimental art but equally invites us to consider older histories of colonialism, religion and indigenous practices. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were a period of contact, contagion and domination in the Americas, as Spain’s dual Catholic and economic missions were played out on the bodies of the local inhabitants. It was a time in which cabinets of curiosity were created in Europe to house the strange and marvelous objects of the new world, and when taxonomies of plants, animals and humans were created, so that every specimen could find its proper place in the hierarchies of “natural” law.

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Institutionally powerful, the church was nevertheless in competition with this emerging discourse of science, on the one hand, and more ancient systems of belief on the other. The material world was thus a battle ground of contested meanings in which gold and silver reliquaries containing the skin and bones of Christian saints vied for importance along side indigenous amulets and traditional ritual practices. For believers of both persuasions, the objects were not merely inherited signs of the past but sources of power in the present. To touch them was to participate in a communication with a divine source of existence, their proximity guaranteeing an opportunity to be enveloped by an aura through which the believer might be protected from the forces of evil, both internal and external. The decorative metal box can thus be read as a reliquary case through which divine power works via contact and religious belief, or as the medicine case of a nomadic shaman through which healing takes place via the sympathetic magic of contagion, and transformation.

Ultimately, we are invited to take up the role of supplicant or nomadic shaman ourselves, to transform ourselves into new subjects using the costumes and objects offered to us. Religious altars generally invite reflection on interior life. A vanity mirror invites reflection on our exterior, embodied self.
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Emphasizing this duality, the project traces the ongoing tension of navigating a world of politics and appearance, racism and immigration, self and other, psychic states and physical states. In this way, the triptych echoes the vanity table of a private boudoir or theatrical dressing room, enclosing the subject in a visual space of ideal or surreal projected images. [Image of the book here?] Here, the small round vanity mirrors echo the rear-view mirrors on a car, surrounded in fur with neon green fringe. Lipstick, wrestlers masks, love talismans, amulets, rattles, false teeth, breath mints, paper money, eyeliner, and vials containing grains of corn invite us to participate in private acts of self-adornment, ritual offerings and genuflection. A loose-leaf title page reads as a kind of event score stating in the imperative: “open, explore, empty, choose, reimagine, collaborate, scan, show, decipher, create.” Such instructions are qualified by a subtext that instructs: “open your mind,” “touch everything,” “empty your heart,” “embrace difference.” Permission is granted for experimentation, engagement and enactment. Unlike most works of art that cannot be touched, this one yearns to be caressed, pressed, unpacked, and disassembled for the sake of initiating personal and cultural transgressions and transcendence.

If the talismans that surround the book are not merely toys, but rather tools for transcendence, then the printed book, by master printmaker Felicia Rice, can be seen as the scripture. With a deliberately camp aesthetic, and a sensuous appeal, the ruby vinyl cover and the soft, faux ocelot pelt covering the pages of the printed book suggests a tactility of “bad taste” that is nevertheless sumptuous and inviting. Layers of rich color, creative typography, and textured images break traditional boundaries of book page design, bleeding off the edge. In a quietly radical gesture for the world of book arts and printmaking, the floating images break the rules of marginal precision and free the pages from traditional frames. Each page of the book is a visual interpretation of the writings of Gomez-Peña using hand-drawn images of found objects, some taken directly from the personal collection of the performance artist. Rice’s sketches are enlarged, etched, and printed in multiple colors, endowing the pages with a rough-hewn quality that belies their careful refinement. A visual pantheon of Bengal tigers and low-rider cars, madonnas and shrunken heads, punctuate the text on the page and imply the complex mysteries and tensions that emerge after centuries of intermixing cultures, religions, desires and fears.

Aural and video elements are equally important in the gesamptkunstwerk effect of Documetado/Undocumented. A complex soundscape is triggered when the aluminum lid lifts, echoing the uncanny animism of a music box that suddenly comes to life. If we are attentive, we find discreetly distributed doorbell buttons that can be pushed to trigger even more elaborate recordings by sound artist Zachary Watkins that evoke the streets of Oaxaca Mexico, the internal sense of breath, the romantic tunes of a troubadour, the heartbeats of love or fear, the tremulous vibrations of bird song, the raucous rhythms of a fiesta or a lullaby. Joining these are the voices of Gomez-Peña and videographer Gustavo Vasquez offering instructions for how to interface with the artwork, adding bits of conversation, performance texts, elements of poetry. Watkins also brings in mechanical and artificial sounds to mix, blend and extend into many different tracks that seem endless. Because we initiate the music ourselves, a symphony of self-selection emerges; each track can be repeated or combined to create a new sound score each time the box is opened. The complete track can also be found on a compact disk included inside the book cover.

Filmmaker and videographer Gusavo Vasquez also collaborated with Gomez-Peña on a series of short videos that develop a repertoire of performances exploring what might be thought of as a genealogy of Mexican and Chicano subjectivity, as they interface with the history of film, video and performance art. These vignettes sometimes take the form of an homage to important performance artists of the last fifty years such as Melquiades Herrera, Roy Varra and Marina Abromovic for example, offering a tongue-in-cheek revision in a Mex-Chicano idiom. Some of the videos emphasize the camera “eye” in relation to the body of the performer who stretches out a hand to stroke it; or the camera becomes a tool for “shooting” and the performer’s response erupts in a threatening duet-duel of looking and talking back to the lens, shot-reverse-shot. Short clips of classic Mexican film and television, as well as alarmist and racist representations of ancient Aztecs, are interspersed with autobiographical, intimate, revelations about the difficulty of explaining “performance art.” Visually central is the flesh of Gomez-Peña’s verile, tattooed, and aging body that becomes the surface for self-manipulated plays with “high-tech” devices, or the surface projection of cultural and gender stereotypes and their unraveling.

Performing is a way of dreaming when we are awake, imagining ourselves crossing a variety of cultural borders that are not always clearly delineated but that have both psychological and political impacts. Gomez-Peña’s description of his performance practice as a form of cultural healing invites us to read the work in this way. He explores the condition of cross-cultural identifications and cross-border migrations. At a moment in history when human migration has never been greater, when transnational existence is becoming commonplace, and when economic, social and political systems cannot adequately support their populations, Gomez Pena’s ruminations on the status of so-called “illegal aliens” are particularly urgent and timely. His text explores not merely the broader social framework of US-Mexico relations and their impact on immigrant populations, it also explores the psychological effect of repeated encounters with racism, cultural misunderstanding, and stereotype that require a shifting identity that must be performed and re-performed for both others and oneself. His personal confessions and fears reveal a subject who must navigate a web of social identifications that are both political and intimate writing,

“Pero, if only I had had the guts to join the Zapatistas for good,
the guts to fight the border patrol with my bare hands,
the guts to tell my family I am truly sorry for all the pain
my sudden departure caused them 25 years ago,
when I was young & handsome
& still had no audience whatsoever.
But I was a coward.
I ended up making a life-long performance piece
to justify my original departure, el pecado original.

He also invites us to consider the risks and real conditions of performance in a racist country like the United States. Humor belies the critical engagement with the visual and political conditions of stereotyping. Prodding his audience to think about how second-class status in the United States influences so much of the Mexican-American or Chicano experience, he also reveals that even performance art is a dangerous space from which to speak.

You know, locos, some racist called us at the hotel last night.
Said he was going to “smash our greasy heads in” and hung up.
Sounded as if he was serious
and I have a reason to believe he is here tonight.
(I scream)
House lights, please!!
(House lights come up. I look around the audience)
Can you please stand up and identify yourself?
Are you willing to discuss it?
Or are you ready to smash my greasy head in after the show?
(Long pause)
Hey, you’re watching me and I’m watching you.
There’s no theatrical border between us.
It’s called performance art.
Don’t you wish to exchange places before you attack me?
Come on, wouldn’t you love to be here,
right here on this stage, burning Vato,
standing at the epicenter of the Great American earthquake?”
(Pause)
No one responds. There is tension in the air. I continue to ad lib:
“Come on, the audience is waiting for you to make up your mind.
It’s exciting & dangerous down here.
Don’t you wish to be Mexican for a few minutes?
(Pause)
Because…I don’t.
At the moment I hate it. It’s a huge burden.

Imagine the history of the Aztec empire jam-packed in my DNA,
10,000-year-old genes from three continents
swimming in my boiling blood,
500 years of colonial history in my aching throat.
Qué hueva! I’d rather be…French,
or something kinkier like…like…
a Mormon hair-stylist from Southern Utah,
a butcher from Vladivostok who believes in alien abduction,
a white supremacist from Montana
who dreams of becoming a Mexican performance artist…”
At this point in my harangue,

Miguel Algarin walks up to me and says:
“GP, you’ve made your point. Let’s move on!”

“Sorry, loco,” I answer,
“I was confronting my deepest fears the only way I know.”
(I scream for a blackout a few times and it does not come)
Blackout please!
OK, Mexican blackout!
(I cover my eyes with my hands)

Documentado/Undocumented is an effort to see what is repressed, to unearth what is buried, to reach into the interior, psychic state of radical unbelonging in order to grasp the intricate, violent workings of the world that have resulted in this uneven, unequal, and unjust conjuncture. “Is there still time for dreaming, for reinventing ourselves…Is there enough time to stop the war, another war…Is there enough time to return to a homeland, a stolen homeland…?”

—Jennifer A. González

 

Meet the Collaborators

Meet the Collaborators

friceFelicia Rice is a book artist, typographer, letterpress printer, publisher, and educator. She has collaborated with visual artists, performing artists and writers under the Moving Parts Press imprint since 1977. Work from the Press has been included in exhibitions from AIGA Annual Book Shows in New York and Frankfurt to the Victoria & Albert Museum. Her books are held in numerous collections including Stanford University, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the Bodleian Library, Oxford. She has been the recipient of multiple awards, including the Rydell Visual Arts Fellowship, and grants from the NEA, CAC and the French Ministry of Culture. http://movingpartspress.com

jag2Jennifer A. González teaches in the History of Art and Visual Culture department at the University of California, Santa Cruz and at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, New York. She has written for numerous periodicals including Aztlán, Frieze, Bomb, Camera Obscura, and Art Journal. Her essays about cyborg bodies and racial embodiment in digital art can be found in anthologies like The Cyborg Handbook (1995) and Race in Cyberspace (2000). Her book Subject to Display: Reframing Race in Contemporary Installation Art (MIT Press, 2008) was a finalist for the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award. http://havc.ucsc.edu/faculty/jennifer-gonzalez

ggp2Guillermo Gómez-Peña is a performance artist, writer, activist, radical pedagogue and director of the performance troupe La Pocha Nostra. Born in Mexico City, he moved to the US in 1978. His performance work and 10 books have contributed to the debates on cultural diversity, border culture and US-Mexico relations. His art work has been presented at over eight hundred venues across the US, Canada, Latin America, Europe, Russia, South Africa and Australia. A MacArthur Fellow, Bessie and American Book Award winner, he is a regular contributor for newspapers and magazines in the US, Mexico, and Europe and a contributing editor to The Drama Review (NYU-MIT).  http://interculturalpoltergeist.tumblr.com/

gustavo2Gustavo Vazquez, originally from Tijuana and currently residing in San Francisco, is an independent filmmaker and teaches in the Film and Digital Media department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Vazquez has directed over thirty productions, including documentaries, video installations, and experimental narratives. His work has shown at film festivals and art exhibitions including the Luton UK, Festival Internacional de Cine de Morelia, Mexico, L’immagine Leggera, Palermo, Italy, Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival Broadcast on National PBS. He is a co-author of Documentary Filmmaking: A Contemporary Field Guide, 2nd edition published by Oxford University Press in October 2013. http://film.ucsc.edu/faculty/gustavo_vazquez

zachary201Zachary James Watkins is a sound artist who has earned degrees in composition from The Cornish School and Mills College. Zachary has received numerous grants and commissions and presented works in festivals across the United States, Mexico and Germany. His 2006 composition Suite for String Quartet was awarded the Paul Merritt Henry Prize for Composition and has been performed as part of the 2nd Annual New Music Marathon in Seattle, WA the Labs 25th Anniversary Celebration and the Labor Sonor Series at Kule in Berlin. Zachary has enjoyed artist residencies at both the Espy Foundation and Djerassi. http://zacharyjameswatkins.com/

 

Installations

Felix Kulpa Gallery – October 3–31, 2014

About the exhibition by Robbie Schoen, Gallery Director

Felicia and I have worked together before. It’s important to me that the people that I show are happy with the exhibition. Felicia is a little more engaged with the exhibition process; most artists don’t have a preconceived idea of what they want, Felicia does. I am a humble facilitator. The two of us work well together. When we’re done, we’re both satisfied with the exhibit and most likely we’ve taken the work to a very high level.

Read More of the essay by Robbie Schoen

Going in we found most of what we needed here in the gallery, although some planning went on in advance. I created the cardboard supports for the book. They held the book on tables gleaned from the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. The distinguishing feature of this exhibit of DOC/UNDOC was that the book was laying flat and the viewer leaned over it to see it. This allowed people to fully absorb the work and suss out every detail of the complex images. The mantels in the room formed still life alters, holding page spreads from the book, combined with significant objects and fresh flowers. The timing was perfect to build a Dia de los Muertos altar in one corner with photos of deceased loved ones, gurus, and mentors past.

The idea was to show the book in two locations at once, both at the Sesnon Gallery at UCSC and downtown in this central location, to bring the work to both town and gown. Audiences here at the Felix Kulpa Gallery responded with real feeling to the presentation, especially the altars. It was a non-stop extravaganza. Not only was the book on display on the table and in the altars, but the video was running alongside the interactive electronic case. You can’t get this kind of experience from a kindle. DOC/UNDOC was in the house!

I was obsessed with the video. I have a personal connection with Guillermo from the past and seeing him on screen makes me giggle. I met Guillermo when I was 20, thirty-seven years ago, and haven’t seen him since. He was just as charismatic and silly then as he is now. The whole presentation was a lot of fun, it had the carnival sideshow flavor so much a part of Guillermo’s work.

—Robbie Schoen, Felix Kulpa Art Gallery Director


Sesnon Art Gallery, UC Santa Cruz- October 3–December 6, 2014

Curating Performance Archaeology
Freefalling toward a borderless future

Collaborative projects are often complicated with multiple moving parts. The Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery at the University of California, Santa Cruz, presented this complex exhibition, DOC/UNDOC Documentado/ Undocumented Ars Shamánica Performática in the fall of 2014. The collaborative exhibition, which investigated the heated topics of identity, borders, and transformation, took place during a crisis in which more than 52,000 children, from Central America and Mexico were taken into custody at the U.S. border.

Read More of the essay by Shelby Graham

Entering the gallery visitors confronted the gaze of a tattooed woman painted on velvet asking in vinyl text nearby, “Have you ever experienced an identity meltdown?” This project excavated the artifacts of San Francisco artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s provocative performance scripts, as if displaying findings from an archeological site. A dozen Gómez-Peña’s “fictional taxonomies” were displayed in vitrines– examples of what he calls “border art”: a Mariachi Ken doll, a sex worker Barbie doll, a bowing Mexican toothpick holder, a one-legged Mexican wrestler, to name a few. The velvet tattooed woman was borrowed from Gómez-Peña’s collection of over 20 commissioned velvet paintings.  These objects added to the multiple temporalities of a performance event much like findings from an archaeological site. By displaying work inspired by performance and collaboration, new modalities of documentation emerge that are in favor of a work in progress or evoke fragmentary interpretation.

The focal point of this exhibition was the collaborative artists’ book created by Felicia Rice, who founded the print studio Moving Parts Press in 1977 and has been involved in collaborative projects ever since. The exhibition literally unfolded with a 30­foot handmade accordion-style book winding the length of a snaking S-curved table. This limited edition book combines Guillermo Gómez-­Peña’s performance scripts analyzing identity with Rice’s own colorful, expressive relief prints and typography, many depicting objects from Gómez-­Peña’s collection of border art. Projected on the far corner was Pena’s performance video by Gustavo Vazquez underscoring the collaboration. In large vinyl text next to the video, Jennifer González described why, historically, we are fascinated with cabinets of curiosities reflecting our cultures. The deluxe edition of this book is housed in a hi-tech aluminum case containing a video by Gustavo Vazquez, an altar and a cabinet of curiosities. Blinking lights in the case invited the audience to push buttons that trigger an interactive soundscape by Zachary Watkins.

This performative artists’ book explores the sensitive topic of documentation of identity in America from multiple perspectives. As Jennifer Gonzalez says in her text, “In a contemporary gesture toward the Wagnerian ‘total work of art’ or gesamtkunstwerk the project combines the fine art of the printed book with sound, video, and a playful kit of objects to explore and to heal what might be seen as the cultural, social, and historical rifts that exist between the United States and Mexico.”

Gallery viewers were delighted to ponder the questions posed as quotations on the wall pulled from Gómez-­Peña’s performance scripts and meander along the snake-like book, push the playful buttons on the interactive box, examine all the performance archaeology presented on shelves and then settle into watching the disturbing video that asked even harder questions.

One of the students visiting the gallery said: “This display held an internal dialogue for me that portrayed a battle of letting go to what/where a person came from, “Remember me? I used to be. . .Mexican inside this body.”

400 Porter College students saw the exhibition and were offered bookmaking and mixed media workshops to make books of their own. Each of the five collaborating artists presented their contribution in evening events. Rice performed a monologue describing the personal transformation that grew out of the seven-year collaboration. Gustavo Vazquez showed a sequence of experimental videos and Zachary Watkins created a live soundscape at the reception. Guillermo Gómez-Peña was in residency for three days at UCSC giving a lecture, a performance, and offered an activism workshop. One participant reflected after the workshop, “I remembered to be comfortable in my own body, confident, and not to be afraid when making art that would comment on socio- political situations.”

—Shelby Graham, Porter Sesnon Gallery Director


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Collecting as Critique

duron family collection

A word about the collection from Armando Durón

The Durón Family Collection consists of over five hundred works of visual art by Chicana(o) artists who reside in the greater Los Angeles area. These works have been acquired over the course of the last thirty-plus years. They include paintings, screenprints, drawings, ceramics, photography, sculpture, video, glass and countless multi-media variations. From the figurative and political, to the conceptual and abstract, Chicana(o) artists have been producing great works that highlights the Chicano experience. As Chicana(o) viewers who have shared much of that experience, we have gathered these works under one roof.

Read More of the introduction by Armando Durón

In order to better understand these works and the context in which they were produced we have also collected thousands of invitations and flyers of Latino exhibitions, books, catalogues and brochures, Chicana(o) art posters, artists’ biographies and resumes, letters and notes, and innumerable ephemera. We have attempted as best we can to document and catalogue all of these items so that they can be available not only for our own amateur research efforts but more importantly to scholars and students of Chicana(o) art now and in the future. Too often in the past our Chicana(o) history has been written for us. That is why we have become convinced that it is necessary to have a Chicana(o) perspective about what this art is and what it means, instead of leaving it to others to form that judgment for us.
The process of collecting is necessarily a subjective one. The collector hunts for an unknown object he desires and fulfills that desire when he possesses the heretofore unknown object he sought. Each collector has his or her own process. My process involves looking at art works in community, university and private galleries, museums, private homes, artists’ studios, restaurants, parking lots, warehouses, and garages and in the trunks of cars—wherever I can see Chicano art. Only by constantly looking at works do I believe I can properly assess what is best among what is being produced and whether a work meets its intentions. I also attend shows of other forms of art so that I can compare what is being produced in our community with what is being produced outside it. I read not only the Chicana(o) art books I acquire, but books on general art, art history and art theory, as well as art magazines. I believe this undertaking allows me to make critical assessments, freer from nostalgia and sentimentality, and is necessary in order to maintain the integrity of the collection. Other family members participate in the process when they can, but this is primarily my function. Mary’s support and participation has been just as important to the development of the collection.

The five artists who are included in this exhibition were chosen among dozens of others because they represent some of the deepest and most fundamental aspects of the collection. We have known four of these artists for over twenty years. The earliest work and the latest are by Linda Vallejo. But each of these artists has distinguished themselves with their individual vision and their ability to tell their story—our story. We thank them—Gronk, Barbara Carrasco, Linda Vallejo, Salomón Huerta and Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia—for their art and for their friendship.
We also thank Betsy Andersen and Vicki Winters of the Museo Eduardo Carrillo for this opportunity to share our world in this new medium—the virtual museum. We thank Dr. Karen Mary Davalos for her insightful essay. And most of all we thank you the viewers for allowing us to enter your virtual cortex.
—Armando Durón

Collecting as Critique: Essay by KarenMary Davalos

In popular perception and scholarly analysis, collectors are viewed as narcissistic, an unfortunate misperception that dismisses the important social, historical, and critical work they perform, particularly by those collectors who acquire art largely ignored by mainstream museums, galleries, critics, and historians. Chicana and Chicano art collectors, such as Mary and Armando Durón, are the unheralded preservers of cultural heritage, healers of historical amnesia, and critics of American art discourse.(1)

Read More of the essay by KarenMary Davalos

The Duróns have amassed an impressive collection of Los Angeles Chicana and Chicano art, and this selection presents their notable interventions against American art history, particularly criticism and curatorial practice that excludes as well as includes Chicana and Chicano arts. The first intervention is simple—the Durón Family Collection challenges and exposes the ideologies that support exclusionary practices in mainstream art history. The untenable notions of identity, culture, politics, and universal art (the code word that veils Eurocentrism) have resulted in a variety of gaps in American art museums. The Durón Family Collection fills one such gap. The second intervention is more complicated. Since the Chicano Movement, artists, activists, and scholars of the community have focused on the art of politics and the politics of art, consistently neglecting the multiple styles, approaches to art practice, as well as the various ways that art engages the political realm. Our community-based arts organizations, the legacy of the Chicano Movement, are the producers of important art criticism about Chicana and Chicano art, however, circling nearly every exhibition designed for and by Chicana and Chicano artists is a question about criteria: How is this work an example of Chicana or Chicano art, as if everyone had come to an agreement on the topic. The Durón Family Collection indicates that the Chicana and Chicano art production is richer and more complex than has been imagined. This exhibition challenges the premise of the question and implies that multiple lenses are needed to understand Chicana and Chicano art.

Because the Durón Family Collection exposes and challenges concepts within American art history and Chicana/o art history, I focus on two themes, aesthetics and emplacement, which allow for a rethinking of these two subfields of art history. These two themes in the exhibition function as important interventions. Aesthetics has been a driving topic of Western discourse from philosophy to anthropology. Yet, because it is narrowly defined, particularly to suit European and Euro-American notions of beauty or the sublime, Chicana and Chicano art is rarely examined for its aesthetic qualities. Equally responsible for this omission is the broad rejection since the 1960s of art-for-art’s sake or the modernist approach to art. Chicana/o art history has focused on the socio-political context and meaning of the work, leaving aside a discussion of line, color, composition, and style. However, Chicana and Chicano art has always been invested in aesthetics, both Euro-American notions and culturally-informed ones, such as rasquachismo, the improvised popular pleasure that originates in working-class survivance, or indigenous aesthetics—to name two of many. As a topic of discussion, aesthetics allow us to place Chicana and Chicano art within global trends.

The second theme, emplacement, a form of belonging obtained through attachment to a specific place and spatial claims to sovereignty, could be recognized as more organic to Chicana/o art discourse and practice. Portraiture and landscape are two forms of emplacement that have special meaning for people not typically rendered in the national narrative of belonging. Emplacement is more than territorial identity, however, as it is implies self-determination and the ways that home-places reflect and inform the self-care needed under conditions of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, and other subordinations that limit human experience. This theme expands our understanding of Chicana and Chicano art because it draws attention to struggle and resistance; it connects Chicana/o art practice to global liberation movements.

Rather than create discrete groups to represent each theme, I propose that several works fall into both thematic areas. I have idiosyncratically chosen particular works to illuminate the themes. Moreover, none of the works here are parochial, and each parallels trends in American, Latin American and regional histories of art.

Aesthetic Pleasure

Culturally constructed and generated from a socio-historical position, aesthetics are always provincial. Yet the local notions of beauty can resonate across cultural groups, especially since culture is open and porous. For example, the West is not the only region to find beauty in the line of a pencil or stroke of a brush that flawlessly reproduces reality. The combination of exquisite technical mastery and compositional authority is awe-inspiring; it is a form of magnificence when an artist superbly renders his or her world. Another form of the sublime is achieved when reality or awareness of reality is heightened, intensified, or enhanced.

Like most art historians trained to appreciate Renaissance and baroque, paintings, I find beauty in the folding and draping of cloth. Linda Vallejo’s early work, Madonna con Columnas de la Humanidad (1975), visually echoes the paintings of El Greco and Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez, which she studied in Madrid as a teenager.(2) The Madonna’s gown adorns her body like a jewel. The shadow and light moving across the fabric conveys spiritual knowledge, maternal love, and authority—and in this movement and depth lies beauty. Typically, Vallejo’s explorations of beauty focus on the landscape and the inner divine, as seen in Los Cielos (1996). Yet, this early drawing brings to our attention Vallejo’s interest in the blending of cultures, as she literally surrounds the Madonna with humanity’s structural supports, which are embedded with primordial script. Also superbly made is Barbara Carrasco’s line drawing Frida Kahlo y Yo (1985), which depicts two beautiful women with delicately rendered hair. It’s the hair that provokes aesthetic pleasure—interlacing strands, brushed and braided, gently embrace Kahlo and Carrasco. Indeed, Carrasco is known for her ability to produce realistic locks of hair. Exquisitely rendered hair is also found in Salomón Huerta’s Cabeza (1996) in which flesh raises and lowers the short-cropped hair on the back of a man’s head. Flopping skin likely produced by extra fat is not typically considered beautiful in Western art history, but the wrinkled cabeza, with its undulating skin and hair remind me of the draping cloth found in Renaissance and baroque paintings. Here western and rasquache aesthetics blend, and the use of chiaroscuro to depict a buzz-cut on the back of a beefy male’s head is simply beautiful. Chicano culture does not include royal subjects who sit for portraits that commemorate their power and authority, but Huerta has captured the aesthetic of lo cotidiano.

Continuing this attention to the ordinary, Huerta depicts the painful moment in which a stray bullet reaches the right shoulder of a Mexican-heritage child. Unfortunately, gang warfare, while reduced, continues to plague low-income communities of color. Drive By (1992) combines the movement of hair and the folding of fabric to generate a powerful aesthetic response in juxtaposition to the narrative. Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia also focuses on contrast to evoke sensual pleasure. In Papel Tejido #29 (2011), Hurtado Segovia replaces the conventional media of fabric with repurposed prints that are woven to create a two-sided massive construction reminiscent of traditional textiles of the Américas. When the eye determines that the wall hanging is not tapestry but repurposed prints, the work simulates a sensual pleasure because of Segovia’s ingenuity and exquisite eye-hand coordination.

Visitors familiar with Gronk’s oeuvre might wonder how I will discuss his work as an example of aesthetic pleasure. Certainly, the artist has achieved technical competence in composition, line, and color, and the photograph, Hamlet (1977) is clearly a bewitching portrait of a headless young man walking alone in an alley. If the title of the work is a metaphor for fatherless Chicano youth who lack masculine direction, then the photo heightens understanding of a lamentable social experience. However, Gronk’s body of work is similar to Jaspar Johns, Jackson Pollack, and other American abstract artists as well as Dada-ists and conceptual artists who are less invested in questions of universal aesthetics. Gronk’s work, even the glass construction, Brainfreeze (2004), circulates outside of pre-1945 notions of beauty. As with most of Gronk’s creations, Transient (2006), Little Broadway (2005), and Three Finger Exercise (2012) reinforce local and rasquache aesthetics sensibilities. Gronk plays with street calligraphy, better known by the weighted word “graffiti,” as the style through which to depict human figures, nature, and space. His attention to crowded compositions, multiple perspectives, organic forms, and two-dimensional or naïve-line drawings requires other sensibilities—at least one that finds pleasure in the pace, rhythm, or cadence of his hand. It is the sonic resonance of the work that produces aesthetic pleasure—but one that is purposefully expanding notions of art and the sublime.

Emplacement

Centuries of art history have witnessed the imperialists’ portrait or the colonizers’ vision of uninhabited landscapes, two common modes of claiming space in order to reify power. Chicana and Chicano artists expose these visual gestures of authority, control, possession, and so-called divine right by creating images of the colonized and dispossessed or the places they inhabit. In short, while emplacement is an old visual practice, it has new meaning when enacted by those displaced by the structures of power and the historic traumas of colonialism, racism, sexism, and homophobia. Here Chicana and Chicano arts visualize emplacement in two ways, by registering the power of place and by conceptualizing social location.

Linda Vallejo’s Sacred Oak (2002) and Los Cielos are powerful and utopic images of landscapes made meaningful by Indigenous values and relations. Sacred Oak depicts the life-force within the tree and its value within Native and Xicano communities.(3) These images bear witnesses to Indigenous presence in the landscape. Rather than uninhabited spaces that lack cultural history and meaning—the tradition of American landscape painting, Vallejo paints Indigenous places and their grace and dignity associated with those locations and the living beings and life-giving energies dwelling there. The paintings are lessons, instructing viewers to reorient their relationship to the land by rejecting notions of ownership and possession.

Both Gronk and Salomon Huerta have made significant examinations of the subaltern, further enacting emplacement. Disrupting the conventions of Western portraiture, several images are anonymous or archetypical characters, such as Transient (2006) by Gronk and Sin Dios (1993) by Huerta. Individual portraits come to symbolically represent collective experiences of the impoverished, forgotten, and erased. These previously invisible people dwell in the United States, and it is their home. Huerta has been consumed by irreverent portraiture for decades, drawing figures without attention to facial features. Also depicting the historic trauma of racism is Barbara Carrasco’s Self Portrait (1984), a serigraph that narrates the social brutality experienced by Mexican-heritage artists in Los Angeles whose work is whitewashed from the community’s walls or American art history’s pages. Like Huerta, Carrasco does not shy from the grotesque. Another self-portrait directly engages the most haunting topic—death—by placing her self-portrait inside a coffin or by depicting a couple in skeletal form as in Love Fires (2003). These portraits rupture Western traditions of figuration, but they also intend to locate the lives and experiences of people deprived of their land, heritage, and life-ways.

Linda Vallejo extends the challenge against Western portraiture and its symbolic emplacement by recoloring the very images that have come to represent the West, its authority and its ability to displace non-white people. For the series, Make ‘Em All Mexican, she produces Salome (2013) from a repurposed Hollywood still of the 1953 movie starring Rita Hayworth as the dancing, temptress who requests the head of John the Baptist. Vallejo repaints the seductress as Mexican by making her skin, hair, and eyes brown, reformulating the symbol of beauty and feminine power. This snarky reorganization of the gender and racial hierarchy that has unwritten the presence of Mexican women is a provocative visual strategy against representation, authenticity, and belonging. With Salome, Vallejo takes the series a step further by making a Spanish-descent actress into a Mexican, exposing Hispanic roots that were hidden throughout Hayworth’s career. Vallejo places the actress into the non-white category in which she was born. Yet, because this series is based on the simple maneuver of painting things brown, Vallejo also exposes the myth of biology. Racial identity is a social construction, and although meaningful, can be manipulated by anyone.

Hurtado Segovia is also working with repurposed images to achieve new senses of belonging and identity. Linking to a specific place and time, his two works “By Deborah Caldwood” (IV) (2008) and “By Deborah Caldwood” (XXXIV) (2009) unravel the Western fascination with the original and the author-genius as he appropriates his wife’s childhood drawings into the realm of fine art. These works and Plegarias (2006), a photograph of a work of art housed in an orphanage, further challenge ownership, and in doing so, resist the rhetoric of colonialism and its emphasis on possession of people and land to establish authority as well as universal aesthetics. Similar to Vallejo’s emplacement of the under-recognized, Segovia locates a previously underrepresented or misrepresented group of people into the national narrative of belonging.

This visualization of emplacement indicates that Chicana and Chicano art is expansive and complex, and thus, suggestive of a broader analysis. For example, some images locate the subject in two places, as does Carassco’s use of pop colors and día de los muertos icons. The matte color-scene originates in US graphic arts and imagery of skeletons migrates from Mexico. Emplacement is not about national identity but a grander sense of community and belonging. As such, it can support a coalition across subaltern communities, the working-poor, people of color, indigenous groups, women, and LGBTQ residents.

In this way, the private collection amassed by Mary and Armando Durón is itself an act of emplacement as they take a stand about the place of Chicanos in the nation and the world of art. It is a collection that documents how artists individually and collectively are more expressive, more creative, more complex than previous art criticism has envisioned. The diversity of styles alone is enough to call into question the dualistic method in Chicana and Chicano art history—political vs. commercial, traditional vs. popular, or collective vs. individualism, while the sheer artistry of the work calls into question the validity of mainstream arts institutions that do not collect, exhibit, and preserve Chicana and Chicano art.

1. KarenMary Davalos, “A Poetics of Love and Rescue in the Collection of Chicana/o Art,” Latino Studies 5, no. 1 (2007): 76-103.


2. Linda Vallejo, interview by Karen Mary Davalos, August 20 and 25, 2007, CSRC Oral Histories Series, no. 2 (Los Angeles: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Press, 2013).


3.  Using the indigenist spelling for “Chicano,” I reference the aboriginal sensibilities of some artists and activists. This political and linguistic maneuver refuses the immigrant representation of Mexicans living in the United States and insists on a longer historical memory of place that pre-dates US and Mexican nations.


KarenMary Davalos is a professor and chair of the Department of Chicana/o Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

Text © KarenMary Davalos, all rights reserved.
Artwork © the artists, all rights reserved

 

GALLERY

Linda Vallejo: Inoperable Vision

Gronk: Our Own Picasso

Barbara Carrasco: Chicana Self-Portraiture

 Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia: A Tapestry of Thoughts

Salomón Huerta: Visual Sociology

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The Enchanting World of a Chicano Trickster: The Whimsy in José Lozano’s Pictures

In Junot Diaz’s novel, This is How you Lose Her (2012), he tells of the Dominican experience in the U.S. and in particular Dominican love and life in New Jersey. The narratives portrayed are of everyday folks that simultaneously occupy two cultures and how they shape and negotiate their reality as they seek to redefine their identities. What is refreshing and distinct in his work is that his subjects are complex individuals full of gravitas, whose very real depiction collapses the fine line between good and evil.

Read More of the essay by Dianna Marisol Santillano

Visually, and on the other side of the coast, one can locate a similar type of authentic yet nuanced and multidimensional representation in the rich imagery produced by Chicano artist José Lozano. Born in Los Angeles, but having spent his childhood in the borderlands of Juarez, Mexico before returning to southern California where he attended art school and now resides, Lozano’s art bursts from these demographical and cardinal seams; unleashing an art that is at once whimsical, with its strong element of humor, but which is also endowed with an ever engaging tension and paradox that engrosses the viewer completely.

In his pictures, Lozano keenly captures and portrays a physical and psychic space of working-class folks, or gente, complete with culturally laden signifiers, portrayed in various social situations. Lozano’s worldbuilding is comprised of both fictional and nonfictional elements, settings and people, where random propositions are delivered on the picture-plane, unhinging the genre of straight up representational portraiture by endowing the non-fictional world with the sublime or obscure, resulting in visual magic.

Cropped snapshots of nightlife, with folks hanging out, couples hooking up, while others wrestle with existential dilemmas, are all rendered in a style that conflates popular illustration, absurdist Expressionism, and Mexican Modernist’s populism with Fauvist aesthetic sensibilities. Henri Matisse comes to mind with his love for color and flat surfaces and spontaneous flair as does George Grosz’s seething caricature drawings of city life.

This spontaneity in Lozano’s work is not by accident, as “he wants instant results, and therefore does not paint in oils”[1] —instead his media ranges from serigraphs, acrylic, gouache, multimedia, among others. In the spirit of ‘automatic-drawing’ or automatism as developed by the Surrealists, Lozano’s works are “painted drawings”, created rapidly and mined from his deeply imaginative mind. He avoids drawing from life, resulting in an incredibly personal style that consists of random juxtapositions infused with a Surrealistic dimension.

A quixotic social scene is portrayed in Angels Lit by Sin. Most of the subjects are sitting down and arrestingly looking back at the viewer. The naked women dancing upon table tops also stop as a floating angel hovers in the background . The ambiguity of the scene marks much of Lozano’s work but it is precisely why it captivates. Who are the angels that are lit by sin— is it the dancing women?

Likewise, in the intriguing gouache on paper work entitled Los Globos Lounge, the subjects are again set in a social situation with globos or balloons drifting away in the background. What is noteworthy in this series are the brick walls in the background serving as a sort of boundary or border. What are these walls demarcating? What lies beyond that wall? On the one side are sexy women and men smoking cigarettes, and on the other, a different type of promise —a different type of carnivalesque adventure; perhaps an innocent or pristine landscape, paradise? This demarcation is addressed in El Mictlan, in which the men and women are on one side of the wall and two vibrant angels on the other. The Spanish title of this work roughly translates into English as the underworld. In comic strip fashion, two of the figures have text balloons and are in a conversation. Lozano explains, “the lad is leaving to the other side, (and) the older man tells him “Why do you leave kid, over there they take your soul, here just your head”. [2]

In Lozano’s art, public spaces and events are made to feel intimate, and despite the incongruous nature of his work, the personal is there; for even though these works could be seen as portraiture, the fact is that these characters are figments of Lozano’s imagination. They are informed by personal observations of his community and family throughout his lifetime. Lozano certainly knows his subjects and approaches them with deep connection, as he chronicles his community and its popular culture in his multifaceted art practice.

In an unexpected shift from images drawn from his community are Two Geishas/Sushi (Image 6) and Utamaro Lounge (Image 7), where Lozano’s pantheon are placed in front of a massive backdrop of two geishas in an iconic Japanese landscape. The superimposition and juxtaposition of these two distinct styles and the unexpected combination of aesthetics, bridges representations of the ‘other’ — creating a pictorial chasm that is anything but jejune. The geisha scenes in Utamaro Lounge (Image 7) are smooth and rendered in classic Japanese woodblock print style, while along the bottom his subjects are rendered in a caricature style with those quick rapid fire strokes and oddly cropped poses, and yet they all similarly capture the gaze of the viewer.

Certainly Lozano’s trickster mentality (he calls himself, “el travieso” ) and his mischievous play with imagery topples our notion of ‘relatedness’ by placing together non-sequitur visual propositions in settings like lounge bars in the city of Angels.

Furthermore, like in Junot Diaz’s narratives, Lozano’s subjects depart from the all too pervasive trope in art and literature of the all-suffering immigrant. Expressed with a lyrical texture and complex layering of forlorn diasporic love and life, in both instances their subjects are based on what they know best and through their art convey their respective communities: bi-national, hard working people who are infused with sensuality, desire, contradiction and dimensionality.

José Lozano’s long artistic career consists of a varied artistic practice that also includes: artist books; paper dolls of famous people like Frida Kahlo and others of men and women sporting lucha libre masks (Images 1, 2, 3, 4, 5); and a recent public work commission for the L.A. Metro Expo Line (Image 16). This public work commission is of eight art panels of Lotería cards, the popular Mexican game of chance that uses iconically decorated playing cards, but reinterpreted through Lozano’s signature style and individualized for this project.

Lozano’s art has lasting enigmatic resonance, resulting in an aesthetic that is pure Lozano. We look forward to what this maestro of visual mischief, reconfiguration and humor thinks of next.

—Dianna Marisol Santillano

[1] From art talk at Fremont Gallery in South Pasadena, CA on March 1, 2014

[2] Lozano quote, Sept. 10, 2014


Dianna Marisol Santillano is an adjunct professor at California State University, Los Angeles View Professor Santillano’s CV»
José Lozano’s website: http://www.joselozano.net/

Text © Dianna Marisol Santillano, all rights reserved.
Artwork © José Lozano, all rights reserved
Interview with José Lozano courtesy of Atelier Visit

Interview by Abel Alejandre with José Lozano

2014 Carrillo Scholarship Recipients

Museo Eduardo Carrillo is pleased to present the work of the 2014 Carrillo Scholarship Recipients from University of California, Santa Cruz in our online gallery “On View”. The faculty recognized great promise and commitment in these students’ art and selected them for this honor.

Please linger, add your comments, and follow the artist’s links to see more.

Read Artist Statements

Kristian Talley

Through depicting the human form, I attempt to catalog the tension and harmony apparent between our bodies and the spaces we inhabit, while also striving to involve my viewers through representational acuteness and ambiguity. I hope in the pursuit of honing my own practice and critical eye, I implicate the eyes of others in a resistance to our modern trend of seeing. From our tendency to personify the natural and synthetic landscapes we each create, destroy and inhabit, I hope to illuminate each viewer’s unique and often contradictory condition– as well as the distance one maintains between themselves and the context they habituate.

kristiantalley.com

Ruben Alexander Barron

My artwork is about metamorphoses of the human spirit. Exploring the parallax of space and time, it expresses a deep understanding of mythological epochs juxtaposed in the foreground of an unattainable post-modernity. My work is concerned with the ancient as much as it is inspired by the possibilities of the future, intending to reach for the future with a sense of gratitude and connection with the past.

www.rabarron.com

Jeremy Rathjen

The artwork I create has a strong connection to the environment in which I was raised and the difficult struggles that the diverse majority of people still face every day in my hometown of Stockton, California. After Stockton was crowned by Forbes “The Most Miserable City in the United States” twice, my eyes were opened to the obvious misery on every passing face. I am interested in translating all emotions that relate to “misery” into at times easily digestible yet often deeply conceptual mechanical reproductions through any and every print making process, alongside more tactile mixed-media pieces incorporating photography, painting, sculpture, collage, and assemblage.

jeremymrathjen.wix.com/portfolio

Lulu Zilinskas

I feel you can conjure up the plainness of emotion with almost nothing at all. Following intuitive motion, my work has a handmade or sketchy quality. In graphic novel style, I utilize simple lines and shapes to command attention with understated power.

luluzilinskas.tumblr.com

Gloria ‘Shile’ Cifuentes

After many years of doing small paintings I was introduced to murals in Gavilan College in 2006.

My interest has changed; I put aside my personal work and now dedicate myself to giving back to my community, and to bringing back arts to schools.

manjarcita.wix.com/shilecifuente

Jennifer Macias

I have always loved drawing; however there is something about printmaking that I have not been able to experience with any other art medium. With printmaking not only am I a printmaker, I am also an illustrator, a sculptor, a painter, an athlete, and even a chemist. It amazes me where I am now and where I have yet to go, and I owe it all to my humble beginnings in drawing.

Louise Couzens

My interest as an artist is tied in closely with my curiosities of the individual, and the inner and outer working of the Self.  In my work I strive to show the person as they truly are, stripped of all social contexts and material objects so that whether they be proud or angry, they are simply seen as human.  I have found that my explorations work best in layers, and so my pieces are usually a culmination of many different creations combined into one piece, just as I feel the complex human being is.

Joanne Wang

I fully immerse myself in the processes of playing, manipulating, accumulating, morphing, deconstructing, and building. I create visually tactile installations and sculptures that are jarringly uncomfortable when finished yet still represent familiar, biomorphic forms. My work incorporates calming, organic forms that have unsettling undertones due to the minuscule details of excess and reverberation throughout the surfaces. Each piece evolves through extensive processes of repetition and experimentation with multiples and found materials of various textures. These processes are representative of the prolonged natural, physical, and chemical processes that our planet and its inhabitants undergo—mutations, formations, death, erosion, evolution, growth, and decay.

Jesus Zuniga

I am interested in the mind and body’s markers of lived experience. My mixed-media work portrays my mind and body as merged landscapes processed by my own perceptions of those experiences. It is exciting to know that, when under enough pressure, these bodily tectonics will reveal their limits and potential for growth.

jesuszunigaart.wix.com/jesuszuniga

Jessica O’Handley

My practice tends to focus on the exploration of color and how it triggers a response to the viewer. Most of my work is about social interaction and exchange while exploring individuality.

vervesideventures.weebly.com/

Richard Vallejos

My artwork takes a critical look at the constantly deepening relationship between culture and information technology. In order to pose questions about how we understand the world through the framing of technology, I examine concepts related to computation, such as, user-interface design, gamification, big data, and simulation. In recent projects, these themes are explored in interactive, sculptural installations that feature data-shaped tensile structures, constructed using folk building techniques

richardvallejos.net

Jaysie Yu

My fascination with pop art, fashion, and food has such a relationship with each other that can easily be both aesthetically pleasing yet deceptively pointless. I find a lot of humor and light-heartedness in my work and I want my audience to feel the same. With bold colors and patterns, differently textured fabrics, and a whimsical theme of food, my work directs to different eras and evokes the feeling of nostalgia along with a hint of the munchies.

Jordan Goldfine-Middleton

I believe that we humans draw meaning out of a hollow space that surrounds all of us. My abstract paintings often begin with a layer of black gesso to illustrate the process of searching and building that we go through in constructing our own meaning. Some of my work in this vein references the lights of bio-luminescent deep-sea animals, creatures who literally construct their own guiding light in a black and shapeless environment.”

jgoldfinemiddleton.wix.com/sprungfromthedark

Giovanna Martinez

My artwork analyzes the social standards that have been defined for women of today’s society in order to educate them about a lesser-known space using the ideals of a woman of color. I am drawn to the subject of women and their space in society because as a Hispanic woman, I have observed that there is no space to represent me as something other than fetish or sub parity. I explore the themes of fat shaming, fashion bias, and unrealistic depictions of the female body

gmgmartinez.tumblr.com


2014 Carrillo Scholarship Recipients Gallery

Click to enlarge, or view all as slideshow

Mary Holmes Festival: April 17 – June 5, 2014

Mary Holmes and Eduardo Carrillo were joined by a deep love of painting and the exploration and discovery it afforded them.

You will get to know Mary from this fantastic series of events held at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  You can learn more about their friendship at museoeduardocarrillo.org

Alison Carrillo on Mary Holmes: Mary Holmes was a gorgeous, long-legged painter, teacher and mother who loved men even more than she loved horses. She was forty five, smarter than most, outspoken, iconoclastic, with a quick eye for what mattered: painting.

Read more of Alison Carrillo on Mary Holmes at our website

withmexicanhat

Desire and Inquiry: The Art of Claire Thorson

a_thorson-card_03

An Appreciation by Tom Maderos

There are contradictions, questions, and overlapping truths in Claire Thorson’s art—in other words, it’s visionary as well as optical. Light advances on shadow, then turns away from it; space is made from its own obstructions. In a painting like Tumble, color may thicken into surface and mass, four joined lines of a similar blue might be a box or a back, but they are always also the features of a map. It’s a map of the painter’s path of construction and the possible path of reconstruction by the viewer.

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Between representation and abstraction, the only barrier to insight is our so-called misunderstanding; but in front of one of these drawings or paintings, we understand physically. Instead of an ambiguity of form there’s an ambidexterity of landscape and figure. Here, the viewer stands at the crossroads of desire & inquiry.  If we see in fragments, the interlocking brushstrokes might be several distinct figures; seen as a whole, a bay and coastline are in a single human contour. There’s the generative yellow-green of late Spring, where color becomes the shape of a figure, one that doesn’t merge with the suggestion of natural space but instead is
interpenetrated by it.

A painter may go into her studio with a purpose, but the engagement of brush on canvas, or chalk on paper can record a break in the chain of intention. In art, especially in drawing, a distinction is often made between what we observe and what we invent, but both invention and close observation can be forms of reverie.  Like any good quantum mechanic, a painter moves the pieces around and notes the shift in heart-rate.

The practical and spiritual value in questioning perception is clearly present in these images. We most often feel that we are moving through the world, but at other times it seems as if the world is moving through us. When these two perceptions are placed side by side, as they often are in Claire Thorson’s work, the resultant sense of “reality” is fluid and multi-dimensional—3, 4, 5-D or more.

The individual images, seen here in series, generate their own history, and the relationship of drawing to painting strengthens. These are public marks of a private activity. Conventions for the illusion of depth and the color-indicators for skin or sky are adopted from the artist’s experience. In a drawing, black charcoal lines question the distinction between an arm and the movement of an arm, yet these same conventions are subtly modified in painting. The lushness of a drawn line and the lushness of a painted section can be roughly equivalent but never the same. Compare the drawing Transparency Of Time with the painting Arrival and see what I mean.

Art history as well as personal history threads its way through these images, but the game of “Spot The Influence” that bedevils most criticism is ultimately just a distraction.  Artists have always tried to extend as well as honor inherited traditions. Claire Thorson’s work moves in that direction.  What we see in her drawings and paintings feels lyrical and true.

—Tom Maderos

 

Text © Tom Maderos, all rights reserved.
(Tom Maderos is a painter & writer who lives in Santa Cruz, California. You can see his work at “Paint & Words” http://tompaints.blogspot.com/ )
Artwork © Claire Thorson, all rights reserved. http://clairethorson.com

Video: Claire Thorson, Search for the Return

This time-lapse movie by Nada Miljkovic captures the drawing process of visual artist and educator Claire Thorson’s exhibition.

Nada Miljkovic is the owner of Artist on Art, a Santa Cruz company helping people tell their stories. She produces videos and is the radio host of KZSC’s Artists on Art (Wednesdays at noon). For contact information and to see more of her work, go to ArtistOnArt.com.
Claire Thorson Image Gallery: click to enlarge
All Artwork  © Claire Thorson protected under U.S. and International Law. Other than for exhibition related uses, no part of this material can be altered, reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without prior written permission of the copyright owner and artist, Claire Thorson. This includes all rights now in existence or which may hereafter come into existence, including but not limited to authorship, documentation, lectures, or any other creation or presentation by Claire Thorson in any artistic medium, print, audio, electronic, video, CD ROM, photographic, digital, film, and any future medium.

NEW! Essays from Cornell University Students

An Initiative Between  Ella Diaz, Professor of English and Latino Studies at Cornell University, and Museo Eduardo Carrillo

© Lorraine García-Nakata all rights reservedFriends, No Matter What7' x 4' 2”  Charcoal/Pastel On Paper, 2008

Telling to Live: Critical Examinations of Testimonio in the Artwork of Lorraine García-Nakata

The following nine essays were written by an incredible group of undergraduate students at Cornell University, who enrolled in my fall 2013 course, “Telling to Live: Critical Examinations of Testimonio.” A type of writing known in Latin America, and integral to Chicana/o and U.S. Latina/o literary canons, testimonio typically offers an individual’s story as representative of a whole community. I designed the course to engage both literary testimonios and alternative forms appearing in visual and performance art in order to explain, and also test, the boundaries of this essential literary genre. From I, Rigoberta Menchú (1984), a canonical testimonio, to the Latina Feminist Group’s formative anthology, Telling to Live: Latina Feminist Testimonios (2001), the course included a section on testimonio as educational praxis, which is an important component of Chicano/a Studies pedagogy. The course culminated in an online exhibition of visual artworks by Chicana artist, Lorraine García-Nakata, launched at the Museo Eduardo Carrillo in late October 2013. “Navigating By Hand: Lorraine García-Nakata,” is a retrospective show for a historical Chicana artist and her work over several decades. Making the case that García-Nakata visualizes her story as a collective experience—one that testifies to the power of everyday life, the students toured the exhibit and then contributed to it through short, online essays, each of which analyzes García-Nakata’s artworks. Most importantly, Lorraine speaks to viewers through her generous and brave offerings of her life, from the innocence of childhood, to the hopes, fears, and desires that come with age and the raising children. In turn, the students in my class speak back to Lorraine in clear and resonant voices that critically examine the content and the form of several of her pieces.

From left to right: Professor Ella Diaz, Sarah Proo, Ashley Elizondo, Carmen Martínez, Stephanie Martinez, Elizabeth Ferrie, Kerry Close, Eamari Bell, & Gabriela Leon. (Not pictured: Phoebe Houston)
From left to right: Professor Ella Diaz, Sarah Proo, Ashley Elizondo, Carmen Martínez, Stephanie Martinez, Elizabeth Ferrie, Kerry Close, Eamari Bell, & Gabriela Leon. (Not pictured: Phoebe Houston)

Crossing Gender Lines: “1950’s Self Portrait” (2008)

Eamari Bell, Cornell University

In the piece titled “1950’s Self Portrait,” a 7’ by 4’2” charcoal/conte work on paper, Lorraine García-Nakata paints herself as a young girl in an unconventional outfit—overalls and a shirt with a baseball cap and sneakers. In her left hand, she holds a baseball mitt.

Read more of Crossing Gender Lines: “1950’s Self Portrait” (2008) by Eamari Bell

The major theme of this piece is the innocence of childhood: the girl’s lack of awareness of the importance of appearance in society and how one looks can affect her.

Having the ability to dress as a tomboy at such a young age is rare because most parents enforce gender roles early on in childhood, specifically in choice of clothing. On the surface, Lorraine’s outfit appears to break all gender norms for a young girl, especially during the 1950s. However, femininity is still present in this photo, enforced by society. For example, the shirt she is wearing underneath the overalls isn’t a plain white t-shirt; it’s a blouse with a Peter Pan like collar. As a little girl, I can remember wearing these shirts as a part of my school uniform. The Peter Pan collar was always a distinguishing factor between the girl and boy shirts and reinforces the gender roles this picture appears to contradict. This simple detail of the collared shirt visualizes many little girls’ stories of the “uniform” we are unwillingly born into and forced to grow up in.

In comparison to García-Nakata’s “1960’s Self Portrait,” (also a 7’ by 4’2” charcoal/conte on paper piece,) it blatantly differs in the clothing Lorraine wears. This difference is reflective of the 10-year difference between the pieces and the way she has been molded during that time frame. Within this decade of time, Lorraine has experienced growth both physically and as a product of society. Two distinct transitions that are shown between these two images are seen in clothing and choice of toys. In the “1960s Self Portrait,” Lorraine has transitioned out of her semi-tomboy outfit, into a full dress, representing full acceptance of the gender norms for how a young girl should dress. Additionally, she is now playing with a hula hoop, a toy very specific to girls, instead of the more athletic baseball mitt. This portrait serves as a token to a public pressure that young girls inevitably experience in our society. Taken together, the two works are a coming of age story for young girls, both from the 1950’s and 1960’s, to the present. This coming of age story may begin at different life points for different girls but that pathway has the same guiding buffers leading to one eventual outcome.


Blinded by Youth: “Friends No Matter What” (2008)

Kerry Close, Cornell University

Lorraine García-Nakata’s “Friends No Matter What,” a  7’ x 4’ 2”, charcoal/pastel on paper work, serves as a powerful image of youthful defiance of racial norms in the 1950s. The image portrays a black girl and a Latina girl, the latter of whom represents the artist herself, standing back-to-back, blindfolded, with their hands clasped.

Read more of Blinded by Youth: “Friends No Matter What” (2008) by Kelly Close

The content implies that despite, or perhaps because of, society’s inability to accept both girls due to their race, they have struck up an alliance. The inspiration for the image comes from García-Nakata’s past, when her white best friend’s mother opposed their friendship; yet despite her disapproval, “we found a way to remain friends, ‘no matter what’” (García-Nakata 2013). Indeed, “Friends No Matter What” tells the viewer that, in the pre-Civil Rights Movement context of the piece, “no matter what” can be taken to mean “regardless of racial stereotypes.”

The piece clearly depicts García-Nakata’s personal story, but race relations in the mid-20th century were also a highly public issue. This theme reinforces the mission of testimonio: not only to tell one’s own story, but also that of a people. While the drawing indicates García-Nakata’s personal triumph over racial prejudice, the piece can also be interpreted in a more pessimistic light. The girls’ position –– not facing one another, with blindfolds covering their eyes –– implies that their senses have been disabled; they cannot see the reality of the situation in which they have been placed. Additionally, the girls fill up most of the canvas space, and there is a small empty background behind them. Thus, the girls occupy their own space, devoid of outside influences telling them how to think. The colors in the drawing also have been muted; their faintness illustrates that the world in which the girls inhabit is not one that is wholly connected to reality. Combined, these stylistic details imply that, while as girls, society’s perception of race was unimportant to them; their refusal to acknowledge the prominent role that prejudice played in American society in this time period can be considered naïve.

The piece calls to mind stories from the book Telling to Live: Latina Feminist Testimonios (2001), particularly those in the section, “Alchemies of Erasure.” In stories such as “El Beso” by Ruth Behar and “The Prize of a New Cadillac” by Yvette Gisele Flores-Ortiz, the protagonists become involved with someone outside their religious and cultural spheres. Subsequently, they face vehement disapproval from their families or that of the object of her affection. In “The Prize of a New Cadillac” in particular, the narrator initially assumes that the differences between her and her boyfriend will not stand as a roadblock to the success of their relationship. She later writes of the experience, “I was too young to know the complications of loving a Jewish man” (201). Similarly, in “Friends No Matter What,” the composition of the drawing implies that while the girls in the drawing are aware of the obstacles that plagued their relationship, their refusal to allow them to affect their friendship, while admirable, could also result in pain for both of them.

Works Cited:
García-Nakata, Lorraine. 2013. “Statement on ‘Friends No Matter What,’ (2008).”

The Latina Feminist Group. 2001. Telling to Live: Latina Feminist Testimonios. Durham: Duke UP. Print.


The Bridal Savior: “Facio Nova Omnia I” (2004)

Ashley Elizondo, Cornell University

Lorraine García-Nakata’s pastel on paper artwork, “Facio Nova Omnia I,” spans an amazing 29″ X 30.” In it, she depicts a young, ethereal woman garbed in layers of pale blue fabric, gossamer veil, and long satin gloves.

Read more of The Bridal Savior by Ashley Elizondo

Her arms and hands are outstretched, as if welcoming viewers; in doing so, she is the image of a warm, gentle, and delicate bride.

At first glance, the woman’s beauty distracts from the religious connotations of the artwork. The title itself, “Facio Nova Omnia,” is Latin for “ I make all things new,” and comes from the scripture describing John’s vision of the“ new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelations 21:2, English Standard Version). Covered head-to-toe with only her face showing, the woman symbolizes innocence and purity while perfectly capturing John’s description of the New Jerusalem.

García-Nakata’s chosen pastel medium further accentuates the spirituality and divinity of the woman. In applying a medium that comes from the Earth– grounded pigments and water– García-Nakata illustrates the indigenous spiritual use of herbs and pigments. Her use of pastel further allows her to add a softness and blurriness to the image, denoting an element of divinity. This is further exemplified through her legless depiction of floating in the heavens amongst the clouds. Streaks of light emanate from the woman’s face giving her a soft majestic glow, much like the artistic depictions of Christ. Her posture and facial expression further nod to her Christ-like appearance as her arms extend in welcoming and her countenance is gentle and nonjudgmental. It is as if she is offering, with a simple touch, to embrace the viewer’s pain, suffering, and sins as her own, while once again making all things new for her onlooker.

Her right hand, noticeably longer than her left hand, biblically symbolizes the strength and support of God (“What the Bible says,” 2013). As opposed to a white traditional bridal gown, hers is the color of the sky and sea. Though the color blue is known to symbolize sincerity, faith, understanding, and healing (Bourn, 2011), it also holds significant biblical meaning. It is the color of God’s chosen nation, the color of God’s throne, and the Word of God (Leonard, n.d.).

Once realizing all the religious undertones of the image, viewers are left flabbergasted as they are forced to grapple with a female Christ-like figure. In Aztec mythology it is not a male but a female goddess, Coatlicue “The Mother of Gods,” that is responsible for the creation of the stars, moon, and sun (Wikipedia, n.d.). By having an omnipotent female instead of a male, audience’s reactions will speak volumes about a society’s perception of female value, power, and status. With this art piece, García-Nakata challenges audiences to reflect upon the interplay between Christianity and indigenous spirituality. Whether intentional or not, there is mixture, or even a marriage, between the artist’s short-lived Catholic background and her ancestral indigenous culture evidenced by the representation of a female Christ-like figure in a bridal gown.

Works Cited:

Bourn, Jennifer. 2011. Color Meaning: Meaning of the Color Blue. Retrieved November 10, 2011, from http://www.bourncreative.com/meaning-of-the-color-blue

Coatlicue. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved November 30, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coatlicue

Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. In text (Revelations 21:2, English Standard Version).

Todd Leonard, C.J. (n.d). Biblical Color Meaning in the Bible. Retrieved November 10, 2011, from http://www.raisedpraise.com/id19.html

What the Bible Says. 2013.”The Right Hand of God.” Retrieved November 10, 2011, from http://www.newchurchphoenix.org/resources/files/TheRightHandofGod.pdf


The Gender Identity Trap: “The Alchemist” (2005)

Elizabeth Ferrie, Cornell University

At first glance, “The Alchemist,” a 29’’x 30’’ pastel on paper work, seems to portray an ordinary scene of a woman deeply engrossed in her studies. However, upon further contemplation, the work speaks to the increasingly confining influence of gender roles that comes with age.

Read more of The Gender Identity Trap: “The Alchemist” (2005) by Elizabeth Ferrie

The freedom and innocence of childhood, captured by Lorraine García-Nakata in her works such as “1950’s Self-Portrait,” (2008) is replaced in “The Alchemist” by a feminine passivity. Unlike the portraits of childhood, the woman in “The Alchemist” only gives the viewer her back. By denying the viewer her gaze, or even the slightest glimpse of her face, the woman’s invisibility takes on larger social significance. As a visual testimonio, this piece marks the identity struggles of stepping into womanhood: the washing away of an individual identity not defined by societal constraints, as seen in García-Nakata’s childhood portraits where the girl is dressed like a tomboy, and its replacement—or the normative gender identity enforced by patriarchal culture. As reflected in the work’s title, this is a visual “alchemy of erasure” embodying a universal female experience of coming of age, “when a woman has to be made invisible, it is because she is powerful” (Latina Feminist Group 2011, 167).

Further, the woman’s feminine dress and adornments accentuate the piece’s theme of conformity to a gendered identity. The use of light pastel colors in “The Alchemist” gives the work an ethereal, dreamy feel. Garcia-Nakata’s heightened use of white and blue, colors emblematic of purity, contributes to the work’s gendered social message and encourages viewers’ to question our expectations of her identity. The fact that the woman is facing books with no titles or words on the pages adds a symbolic irony. Books typically represent a window to limitless possibilities and insights; but the lack of text signals unforeseen barriers to this realm of aspirations. This imagery also evokes the traps of patriarchy revealed in Curtis Sittenfeld’s “Your Life As a Girl” in the anthology Listen Up: Voices from the Next Feminist Generation (2011) in which Sittenfeld tries to resist falling into gender role stereotypes, but is pushed back into place by society (5). Sittenfeld writes, “In classes you speak as infrequently as possible and walk around with your head lowered. You play on the soccer team, but if boys ever watch, you make only halfhearted attempts to kick the ball” (5).

Works Cited:

The Latina Feminist Group. 2001. Telling to Live: Latina Feminist Testimonios. Duke University Press.

Sittenfeld, Curtis. 2011. “Your Life As a Girl.” Listen Up: Voices from the Next Feminist

Generation. Ed. Barbara Findlen. Emeryville: Seal Press, 3-10.


Not as Clear as Black and White: García-Nakata’s Challenge to Systematic Racialization

Phoebe Houston, Cornell University

Lorraine García-Nakata’s “Friends, No Matter What” (2008), represents her childhood memories of being separated from her friends based on their different racial and ethnic heritages and cultures–an intimate personal experience that she shares with viewers through this work.

Read more of Not as Clear as Black and White by Phoebe Houston

But the drawing also functions as testimonio; the story it tells is not merely the story of a young Lorraine; it is also the story of thousands of other children who were shaped by the social politics of the United States, especially before the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. This resonates with the most famous definition of testimonio—that it is an individual story which represents the “reality of a whole people” (Menchú 1984, 1).

The pale blue pastel of the young Lorraine’s dress gives the drawing a “colorized” feel, which further emphasizes the historical backdrop through a period aesthetic: maintaining the aesthetic grants viewers a feeling of distance from the inequalities perpetuated in the not-too-distant past. At 7 feet tall, the sheer scale of this work further emphasizes the monolithic and far-reaching nature of a segregated United States. The girls in the drawing are holding hands while blindfolded, depicting a physical and emotional closeness between the two, despite being placed in a vulnerable position. Lorraine and her friend are literally blindfolded, but are also victims of a society which systematically denies them equal footing. Their blindfolds also represent the innocence of childhood and the intrinsic blindness to their “differences,” further underscoring the fact that racial divides are synthesized entirely by social constructs. When one takes away physical sight or removes the filter of learned generalizations about other races, nothing remains but sameness. The experience of being torn away from a loved one on the grounds of race and ethnicity alone and wanting to be “Friends, No Matter What” is one that is shared by countless people who grew up during the Civil Rights movement and endures in the modern, “post-racial” society as the story of countless victims of enduring discrimination.

Work Cited:

Menchú, Rigoberta. 1984. I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala. Trans. Elisabeth Burgos-Debray. Verso, NY and London, 2009. (2nd Ed).

The Latina Feminist Group. 2001. Telling to Live: Latina Feminist Testimonios. Durham: Duke UP, 2001. Print.


Playing at Gender: “1950’s Self-Portrait” (2008)

Gabriela Leon, Cornell University

Lorraine Garcia Nakata’s “1950’s Self-Portrait” (2008) is a piece of massive proportions, towering at 7’ x 4’2.” Charcoal on paper, the artwork shows a playful little girl, wearing loose overalls, comfortable sneakers, glasses, a baseball cap, and a baseball glove.

Read more of Playing at Gender: “1950’s Self-Portrait” (2008) by Gabriela Leon

Her face is expressionless, but not sad, focusing our attention on her hand wearing the glove. It is extended towards us so we understand that she is in motion, reaching for something beyond our line of sight. At the basest level, the baseball glove is an important marker of her experiences as a tomboy; but it is also significant because she is engaged in a game that, in reality, is made up of rules where there are “winners” and “losers.” In this way, baseball parallels the social construction of gender as something that exists only through communal consensus. Reaching for the ball, Lorraine is pushing beyond the femininity expected of little girls, looking to her own individual expression of self-hood. As the audience, we are part of this development; her extended arm almost literally pulls us in and we feel that we are playing with her.

This feeling of community is reiterated in the handprint that Lorraine uses to sign her work. She is offering us her hand, asking that we embrace as neighbors living in the same social reality. The power of a hand is that it is both incredibly individual and distinctly communal. As humans, we all have them, and yet, in the unique pattern of our handprints, two hands are never the same. This mirrors the work’s visual testimonio. In Lorraine’s personal representation of herself, there is a fragment of our own childhood experiences, of those moments when we were first conscious of socially imposed gender roles. As Lorraine shows us through the scale of her work, childhood is monumental. It is a time of innocence when we are suspended in a blank space, like Lorraine in her self-portrait, pure and untainted, until society steps in, trying to beat us into conformity.


Claiming paternity and selfhood: “Big and Little” (1989)

Carmen Martínez, Cornell University

A common theme that runs throughout Lorraine Garcia-Nakata’s work, both visual and poetry, is family. She shares powerful moments with her family while growing up, or those from the lives of her children.

Read more of Claiming paternity and selfhood by Carmen Martínez

In her 22” x 30” monoprint, “Big and Little,” García-Nakata depicts a portrait of herself with her daughter, printed twice. The only marked difference between both portraits is that in one of them, her daughter has a cutout of a wig, similar to her mother’s hairstyle, superimposed on her own. Next to each portrait is an envelope, the first of which is empty, and the second has the wig—next to the same portrait with the hair on top of the child’s head. Besides these elements, there is no other background except white space. Both Lorraine and her daughter are facing forward with smiles and holding hands, like a classic family portrait.

The focus is clearly meant to be on the portraits and envelopes, given the white, empty background. The envelopes suggest that the artist is attempting to communicate a message through these portraits—perhaps a message to the viewer. The second envelope with the wig, paired with its proximity to the portrait, supports the notion that this detail has a significance that is meant to be communicated to the viewer. Additionally, the similarity of the wig to Lorraine’s hairstyle suggests that the embellishment’s purpose is to claim her child by adding this characteristic. After recalling some of Lorraine’s personal family history, the overlay of the wig suggests a reaction to society’s perceptions of racial identity because her children are biracial: her daughter is African-American and Chicana, and her son is Japanese American and Chicano. Perhaps, like many other parents of biracial children, Lorraine visually claims her child as her own in response to public perceptions that her child is not hers, due to differences in physical appearance. Thus, in these prints of her family portrait, she defies society’s expectations of what her family looks like and, subsequently, her work is a visual representation of testimonio.


Rejecting Norms: “Our Connection” (1981)

Stephanie Martinez, Cornell University

“Our Connection” is a charcoal on paper artwork by Chicana artist Lorraine García-Nakata. This 20” x 30” image shows a woman holding out the palm of her right hand as she looks to her left.

Read more of Rejecting norms: “Our Connection” (1981) by Stephanie Martínez

García-Nakata strategically uses colors that are contrasting to make the palm of her hand the first thing that one sees in this piece. Hands are used to touch: to provide a sense of intimacy and connection. However, the way in which the woman’s hand is placed on the window demonstrates that there is a separation between the woman and what is on the other side. The hand placement, along with the direction of the woman’s gaze, not only reveals that there is a separation or a disconnect, but also a resistance, presumably towards issues revolving around patriarchy.

García-Nakata uses the woman’s naked body as a way to challenge the ideologies of patriarchy. In the Latino community, specifically, it is not socially acceptable for a woman to be naked and, therefore, García-Nakata pushes these boundaries to empower the woman in the drawing by allowing her to take control of her exposure and vulnerability. In addition to her visual artwork, García-Nakata is an author and in her story, “Water Rising” (2006), she explores her difficult relationship with her father; this story potentially fuels her resistance to patriarchy in “Our Connection.” By exposing the woman’s body, she is exposing all the scars that her life battles have left on her skin. By revealing those scars, García-Nakata lets the audience know that the scars will not hold her back and that she is in control of what happens next. By avoiding the audiences’ gaze, García-Nakata (via this woman in the artwork) demonstrates that she does not accept what is on the other side of the window: societal acceptance of patriarchy. She will not look at it and she is pushing it away. Standing up to patriarchy, García-Nakata gives hope to other women in the same situation by letting them know that it is okay to stand up to societal norms and that we should not be ashamed of the scars that our bodies carry.

Works Cited:

García-Nakata, Lorraine. Water Rising 1955. 2006. 1-12. Print.


Driven by Hope: “Diptych: The Red Shoes (right side)” (1990)

Sarah Proo, Cornell University

As humans, we use hope as a means of survival. Hope is limitless—it allows for the birth of visions and fantasies that may not exist as effortlessly in the physical world. Hope is the meaning of the red shoes in Lorraine García-Nakata’s 1990 diptych, “The Red Shoes (right side),” a 7’ x 3’ 9” charcoal/pastel on paper work.

Read more of “Diptych: The Red Shoes (right side)” (1990) by Sarah Proo

In this piece, the viewer experiences a black and white drawing of a blank faced child in a church-like dress, pantyhose, and red Mary Jane shoes. As children, our innocence blinds us from the complex realities of the lives we live. Later in our lives, through reminiscing, we are better able to understand our past.

From the girl’s centered position and focused eyes, the artwork resembles a photograph. Just as photographs are used to document one’s life and significant memories, this artwork symbolizes the rarity of her dress, especially her red shoes. The rarity of her clothing is illuminated by her surroundings: a bare wall and uneven cement pavement that connotes poverty. The image is dark, and she stands amidst two shadows that embody the structural forces of society that attempt to disguise her. Even as the child stands somewhat nervously with her hands behind her back, the allusion to the fantasy of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, by the red shoes, is suggestive of the desire to imagine despite socioeconomic restraints.

Also a writer, Lorraine García-Nakata’s poem, “My Name is Monica,” adds further dimension to the girl, her daughter, by describing Monica as a city child who takes pride in her bilingualism and whose collective mindset motivates her to please her mother and brother. In the voice of Monica, Garcia-Nakata writes, “To help other people. This is what our mother sees. We will speak two languages. We will have happy hearts” (2006). The artwork, like the poem, conveys that the message is one of testimonio because it resonates with other families, who harness an optimism to prevail. While the red shoes may be considered simple, Monica’s true source of wealth is simply her bilingualism and her culture. These pieces, then, serve as a “genealogy of empowerment” (Latina Feminist Group 2001) as Monica exemplifies that to remain strong, we must value ourselves and do so at an early age.

Works Cited:

García-Nakata, Lorraine. 2006. “My Name is Monica.” Children Stories for Adults (I Can Eat Fire Writings)”. Unpublished MS.

The Latina Feminist Group. 2001. Telling to Live: Latina Feminist Testimonios. Durham: Duke UP. Print.

 

 

 

Lorraine García-Nakata: Navigating by Hand

Accompanied by an essay by Professor Ella Diaz, Cornell University© LorraineGarcía-Nakata all rights reservedThe Alchemist29” x 30” Pastel On Paper, 2005

“Navigating By Hand” is an exhibition of the collected works of Chicana artist Lorraine García-Nakata.  Spanning four decades of artistic practice and creation, her pieces reveal the complexities of identity, the intimacy of memory, and the art of bearing witness to one’s life. Born in 1950 in Yuba City, California, García-Nakata was surrounded by a large immediate family of siblings. Her 2008 series of childhood portraits are seven-feet-tall, charcoal drawings on paper and one charcoal and pastel drawing on paper. These are epic works and their scale conveys the imprint that childhood has made on Lorraine’s adult perspective of the world. “1950’s Self-Portrait” shows a very young Lorraine in glasses and tomboy-apparel, running to catch a baseball with her mitt. The image not only captures the athleticism of childhood, but also highlights the possibilities of girlhood—before the world swoops in to enforce the gender norms of the late-twentieth-century. In the 1970’s, García-Nakata joined the Chicano/a arts collective, the Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF), and her tomboy childhood helped her navigate gendered divisions of creative labor within this pioneering organization.

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The activity and playfulness of childhood is also present in “1960’s Self Portrait”; but viewers encounter a more feminine Lorraine, which aestheticizes the piece’s temporality, or visually provides viewers with the experience of watching time pass in Lorraine’s life. Most captivatingly in this series is the charcoal and pastel drawing on paper, “Friends, No Matter What,” which shows Lorraine and her African American friend playing a game of hide and seek. The girls’ stand back-to-back and are blindfolded. With their hands touching, the intimacy of their bodies reveals the deep trust and love between them, which resonates in the work’s title, but also powerfully invokes the historical context of the autobiographical scene. After all, it’s the early 1960s, and the realities of racism, as well as the sociopolitical changes that take place in this era, are the backdrop of Lorraine’s memory. Thus, the stakes are much higher for this pair of friends than a game of hide and seek. Lorraine’s message in this piece is clear: childhood is serious, and who we are during these formative years impacts the adults we become.

Taken together, the 2008 series of childhood portraits are a “testimonial narrative” (Beverly 1989) that García-Nakata has fashioned into a pictorial record of her life. In her adaptation, she merges the conventions of the literary genre of testimonio and autobiography. Put more plainly, while the 2008 series of childhood portraits may seem beautiful and simple, they are also incredibly powerful because they testify to one life that is emblematic of each of our lives as we are born, as we play, and as we grow up. García-Nakata adds, “For a woman, particularly a woman of color, it’s a political act to commit a lifetime to the creative process” (2013). I add that it is also a political act to monumentalize memories of everyday life.

This notion is further evident in the quiet reflection that García-Nakata offers viewers in her recollection of beauty, youth, anticipation, and hope. In “What, No Quinceñera?” (2008), Lorraine shares a private moment from her adolescence. The charcoal drawing on paper is a self-portrait of Lorraine at sixteen dressing for a high school formal. As the edges of Lorraine’s dress radiate off the paper, they disappear into the background, allowing viewers to linger in the dreamlike atmosphere. Like hearing a favorite old song, or encountering a familiar smell, the piece brings readers into the autobiographical arc of the artist’s life while reminding them of their own memories and feelings from these important years.

“What, No Quinceñera?” also raises the “complex intersections of ethnicity, nationality, race, class, gender, sexuality, age, and other markers of diverse identities and communities” (Latina Feminist Group 2001, 4). High school dances are an important rite of passage for American teenagers; but the American adolescence is not a universal experience. The piece’s title alludes to Lorraine’s awareness of another cultural tradition as she prepares for the dominant culture’s version of celebrating the transition from childhood to adulthood. Both pristine and dreamy, “What, No Quinceñera?” is part of Lorraine’s visual testimonio, or her pictorial “genealogy of empowerment”—to borrow an important phrase from the Latina Feminist Group in their groundbreaking anthology, Telling to Live (2001). Like other testimoniadoras who offer their lived experiences to listeners and readers “for intellectual and social justice,” Lorraine’s artwork visualizes the “homemade theories” that “help us make sense of everything that we are and all that we find and love” (Latina Feminist Group 2001, 26). In her series of works on childhood and adolescence, it is not only an aesthetic choice that Lorraine signs each piece with her handprint—prominent on some works and more ethereal on others. García-Nakata asserts that the handprint as her signature symbolizes her “personal commitment to the work” (2013). I add that it also conveys to viewers that these are the experiences that Lorraine swears by, that she promises are true, and that she offers with an open heart.

This unique signature seems to be a recent tradition for the artist; but the desire to make contact with others through her visual art is a continuous quest for García-Nakata, as is evident in  “Blind Not Blind” (1980) and “Our Connection I” (1981) of her “Window Series” that she initiated in 1979. These drawings on paper “explored the idea of the window as a representation of ourselves and the idea that all matter is comprised of molecules in motion” (García-Nakata 2013). Addressing the concept of coming into being, or formation, viewers see hands reaching out from paper and attempting to make a connection. The works both locate and isolate the tactile experience of touch.

The desire for a physical connection in works from the “Window Series” also shows up in Lorraine’s 1980s sequence of mono-prints that explore the development of her individual identity in relation to her family, community, and society. As Rigoberta Menchú (1984) states in her trailblazing testimonio that “My personal experience is the reality of a whole people,” (1984, 1), Lorraine’s mono-prints impart the reality of her identity, which is comprised of family and ancestry, as well as ethnicity and culture. Viewers learn that Lorraine’s story is really a story of descent and her responsibility to that heritage. In “Family Line” (1989), three Lorraine’s stand at three different places in the image, composing a line. The three figures are connected to each other through antique black lace, which is “much like the lace my abuela wore on her head” (García-Nakata 2013). A culturally significant fabric for Lorraine, the lace symbolizes the colonial aspects of her identity that are passed down through the generations, along with the indigenous ancestry and cultural-ways that comprise her. In “Family Line,” the first Lorraine holds the lace from which family portraits are hung. The second Lorraine holds the other end. But the third Lorraine faces away holding a bundle of lace in her hands. Her posture suggests that she awaits the next generation to come and take up the other end.

Lingering on this theme of future generations, Lorraine’s artwork also suggests visions of ancestry that are bound to colonial encounters that have made and continue to make all of our lives possible in the Latino/a diaspora. In her tradition of large scale work, Lorraine created the diptych, “Facio Nova Omnia II: Colonia” and “Facio Nova Omnia II: Indigena” in 2004. The titles are Latin for “I make new all things,” and these pastel drawings deal with the ethno-gendered politics of colonization, locating the origins of Lorraine’s Chicana ethnicity in Indigenous and Spanish women’s bodies. The figures are spectacularly beautiful and I believe this is an important point to make because they invite viewers to perceive beauty in the formation of Chicana-Latina identity, a process that historically was a violent and ugly part of conquest. Strikingly, the figures give their backs to viewers but, while the Colonia is completely turned away from our view, the Indigena gazes over her shoulder, hinting at a point of eye contact and connection. García-Nakata writes, “As Chicanos/Latinos, we embraced the indigenous aspects of our being in the 60s/70’s, then circled back around to later acknowledge colonial aspects of our history/identity. In this case however, our indigenous knowledge, ‘precious knowledge,’ leads the way, sets the standard for how we proceed into our future-as we acknowledge all aspects of ourselves” (2013). In this grand diptych, García-Nakata is concerned with the spaces and times of Chicana-Latina identity, as she frames the emergence of her ancestry between pre-Colombian and colonial female bodies.

Locating the individual story within the “reality of a whole people” (Menchú 1984, 1) Lorraine denies the viewer’s gaze into the eyes of a certain woman that she repeatedly creates. Having addressed childhood, adolescent rites of passage, familial lines of descent, and the socio-historical diaspora, Lorraine’s artwork also engages the spiritual realm and her faith and hope in it—despite the unexplained and unknown factors of the afterlife. “Since my youth,” she explains, “a woman persona … has been in a recurring dream. She provided grounding and comfort. Powerful and ancient, she studies the metaphysical, natural world, and interdependence of all things” (2013). Lorraine reproduces this woman from her dreams in pieces like “The Alchemist” (2005). A pastel drawing on paper, there is something incredibly literary about this portrait of a young woman reading a book, sitting at a desk, surrounded by a shelf of books, writing paper, and pencils. Reminiscent of the Colonia from “Facio Nova Omnia II,” the figure also evokes Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, the self-taught scholar and poet of colonial Mexico that Alicia Gaspar de Alba reinterprets through her novel Sor Juana’s Second Dream (1999). In García-Nakata’s “The Alchemist,” viewers discover another chapter to this woman’s story, as she sits, with a long braid and perfectly fitted dress, deeply immersed in study. She also gives us her back, as if to say that her meditation, her far-off place of thought, is more important than our gaze, than our expectation of who she is and our desire to see her.

An introspective body of work on the components of identity that comprise one’s world and make it worth living, “Navigating By Hand” offers viewers the story of Lorraine García-Nakata. And if viewers look closely and deeply, they will also find pieces of their own life stories reflected back.

c/s

Ella Maria Diaz

Works Cited

Beverly, John. 1989. “The Margin at the Center: On Testimonio (Testimonial Narrative).” Modern Fiction Studies. 35:1 (1989): 11-28.
Menchú, Rigoberta. 1984.  I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala. Trans. Elisabeth
Burgos-Debray. Verso, NY and London, 2009. (2nd Ed).The Latina Feminist Group. 2001. Telling to Live: Latina Feminist Testimonios. Duke University Press.

Text © Ella Maria Diaz, all rights reserved.  All Artwork  ©2013 Lorraine García-Nakata, all rights reserved (see below)

For more of Lorraine García-Nakata’s work:
blog: lorrainegarcianakata.blogspot.com
visual art web site: http://lorrainegn.com/
music site: http://lgn1.bandcamp.com/track/we-the-people?permalink

click to enlarge
All Artwork  ©2013 Lorraine García-Nakata protected under U.S. and International Law. Other than for exhibition related uses, no part of this material can be altered, reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without prior written permission of the copyright owner and artist, Lorraine García-Nakata/Lorraine García. This includes all rights now in existence or which may hereafter come into existence, including but not limited to authorship, documentation, lectures, or any other creation or presentation by Lorraine García-Nakata/ Lorraine García in any artistic medium, print, audio, electronic, video, CD ROM, photographic, digital, film, and any future medium.

"On View" now online at the Museo Eduardo Carrillo Gallery

The 2013 Eduardo Carrillo Scholarship Recipients are “On View”.

Museo Eduardo Carrillo introduces the launch of our on line gallery  “On View” by presenting the 2013 Eduardo Carrillo Scholarship Recipients from The University of California, Santa Cruz.

These young artists have been recognized by University of California, Santa Cruz faculty as exhibiting exceptional talent in and commitment to their artwork.

Eduardo Carrillo was an influential Professor of Art at University of California, Santa Cruz from 1972-1997. He taught courses such as drawing and easel painting and offered unique classes in group mural painting, fresco techniques and  native earth pottery intensives.  His art history classes brought new focus on the arts from Meso America from ancient through current times.

Heidi Cramer

profileI am intrigued by the dramatic changes that all living things are capable of undergoing, both physically and mentally. I aim to represent the transition, from a state of being to another, using 3 dimensional sculpture.  To represent change, I manipulate the material and transform how it is received by the audience. By changing soft lace into a stiff material, or making shopping bags into a substance that can be molded and sewn, I build works of art that encourage participants to manifest the moment of transformation within themselves.

Website: www.heidicramer.com

 


Michelle Spetner

My work examines the way in which objects reflect and determine culture and memory. I am interested in nostalgia, and why objects transform perception and shape the way in which past experiences and places are remembered. Particular objects evoke nostalgia, and by identifying those that attract me, I draw the viewer into the constellations of my personal iconography.

Website: www.michellespetner.com


Colin Schildhauer

Colin SchildhauerI enjoy interpreting the beautiful landscapes of coastal California, which I paint on location en plein air. I work with both oils and acrylics for my landscapes.

I also depict scenes reflecting my inner thoughts.  These often involve environmental themes, registering my concerns about man’s impact on, and involvement with nature; including our relationships with animals, particularly the dynamic between fertility (creation) and consumption (destruction) of living organisms, inclusive of mankind.

This triptych scrutinizes the conservation of our depleting natural resources. My goal as an artist is to record through my paint brush scenes that incite imagination and environmental awareness.

Website: abyssalkite.com

email: colinkubo@cox.net


Sally Su

Sally SuI I’m a creative, adventurous person, and I try to reflect that in my art and philosophies. I aspire to merge art and the interactive nature of gaming to tell stories that inspire, awe, and most importantly, offer a different perspective of our world philosophically and visually.

My greatest inspirations are Pixar, Hiyao Miyazaki, Noah Bradley and Feng Zhu.

My blogger:  sallysuconcept.blogspot.com

Linked in:   http://www.linkedin.com/in/sallysuconcept/

Website: http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fsallysu.daportfolio.com%2F&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNH_Pt6ar3iqd_-lUYN-zzXomaXokg

Patrick Appleby

Patrick ApplebyMy paintings are concerned with the human body and its relation to or absence from mediated images that create, alter, and replace memory and sensory perception. Grappling with the immaterial form of light as well as the photographs that enhance and substitute my vision, each brushstroke acts as a material recording of my existence that carries along with it the inherent distortions and expressions that emerge naturally in painting.

Website: http://cargocollective.com/patrickappleby/