In conjunction with the opening of Social Justice: It Happens to One It Happens to All on at Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art (September 18 – December 1, 2016), Gutfreund Cornett Art arranged for the exhibiting artists to come and speak, In Conversation! 19 of the 46 artists were able to come, some traveling as far away as San Diego, LA. Utah, Mexico and New Zealand! We were all share it there was a single event that had tipped the scale for us, why were were creating the socially engaged work we exhibiting. In this photo above, taken by Sherri Cornett, we are all nervously waiting to begin, the quiet before the sharing. I was struck by how heart-felt and deeply human and absolutely inspiring all the artist’s stories were! I thought I would share with you here what I shared with the crowd last Sunday about my piece.
The image for my painting, La Niña, came to me in a flash and it haunted me, calling me to paint it. I had been following the coverage of the tide of unaccompanied minors from Central America flooding across the border between the United States and Mexico and I was driven to try and understand the circumstances in their homelands that must be so horrible as to drive them to make this dangerous journey alone. What I found was an environment of rampant gang violence, gangs like Mara 13 and 18 that began in LA and were deported to El Salvador where they had flourished, fueled by poverty and civil unrest. So pervasive and endemic was this culture of the Maras, many minors felt they had no choice but to flee from forced recruitment and rape. There was this one photograph I came across that made such an impression on me, it was of a young woman with a giant 18 tattooed across her face which she had received in punishment for refusing to execute a gang murder, it was a family portrait with her baby and her husband, who was the gang’s tattoo artist . She seemed so sad and worried – branded in this very obvious way, an admonishment, a possession, a target. The photo was taken by Christian Poveda, a Hispanic-French photo-journalist and filmmaker of La Vida Loca who was later killed by the gang for his work. In this photograph, I saw the impossibility of the situation where your very skin is indelibly marked with violence. I imagined the image of an innocent baby floating buddha-like in a sea of tattoos, those of one gang etched on to her body, and those of the rival gang floating around her. In searching for a more universal statement, these very specific gang symbols later morphed into more generalized symbols for danger and entrenchment that are marking the lives of our children.
La Niña – Oil on canvas
Here I am interpreting symbols I had morphed in this photograph by Ann Dubois at the reception.
Long time no see – but just because it was summer vacation and I was far to busy for blogging, doesn’t mean there wasn’t a lot happening behind the scenes that I’d love to share and I’m going to see if I can catch up! As usual, the post is loaded with easy links to click on where text is bold.
Saint Mary’s College mission styled campus is stunningly beautiful, its white stuccoed architecture gleaming through its green and flowering landscape, nestled into the golden hillside east of Oakland – a gorgeous setting to look at some of the darker themes we need to pay attention to in our world.
This the the Soda Activity Center (up behind the church) where I’m told the Artist Talk will be held. There is free public parking directly in front of this entrance and the Museum is just across the way where a reception will be held in the pretty courtyard. I hope you’ll consider making the trip to experience the work first hand and to hear the artists tell their sure to be fascinating stories!
Well, I finished my tattooed baby today, at long last!
This image had been burning a hole in my head ever since I began following the news of Central American children risking everything to escape gang violence in their home communities in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, taking dangerous journeys north to the States where too many have been held in challenging circumstances while waiting for their cases to be heard, 80,000 unaccompanied minors from October 2013 – July 2015, according to Azam Ahmed writing for the New York Times last October!
I wanted to explore the impossible situation of the innocent living in the midst of this kind of violence, being groomed to be the next battlefield should nothing change. I hoped the imagery, drawn from tattoos, would morph into an inviting but nightmarish scenario that would take on a life of it’s own.
I’d like to pursue two more in this series, a little boy, El Niño and a baby seen from the back, El Ángel, hopefully with each one I can achieve a higher level of expression.