Abriendo Brecha Conference @ UT Austin Tuesday, Feb 28 2006 

It was an honor to be part of the Arts Activism panel at the Abriendo Brecha conference at The University of Texas at Austin. Rudy Cuellar and I presented some of the Royal Chicano Air Force silkscreen posters. I addressed the artist as a citizen and art collaboration, and Rudy described the work with details about the process and his funny anecdotes.

RCAF image
I felt really proud to be representing these Sacramento artists who have been mentors and friends for several years now. We also had the opportunity to interact with 4 other artists on the panel. Bernice Montgomery, a painter from Dallas, TX was one of my favorites. She really spoke from the heart, and addressed the many daily life issues that artists are faced with in this country, just to be able to survive as artists. There was also a wonderful muralist Joshua Sarantitis from Tuscon, AZ who presented beautiful monumental murals he creates with different communties all over the country. He described working with school children, as well as homeless people and gentrified communities. His work reminded me of the beautiful murals Juana Alicia does in the Bay Area.
I thought all the work was high quality and offered a promising outlook on the future of community arts. I hope I can get Claudia Bernardi to come and present for next year’s conference on the Walls of Hope project in El Salvador. I also think a panel of Emerging Cultural Activists would be very appropriate.

Download PowerPoint: RCAF Presentation

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Culture Clash in Americca Wednesday, Feb 8 2006 

I had always heard of the theatre group Culture Clash from SF, but had never had the opportunity to see them. I was even more intrigued since I learned that one of the actors was Jose Montoya's son, Richard Montoya. The opportunity finally came about a week ago when I visited Houston for the first time. It was the closing weekend for their new production Americca and I was lucky to catch a matinee on Sunday.

Culture Clash Photo 

Their use of humor captivated me. I thought the actors did a great job, considering the limitations of time and the amount of characters each personified. They poked fun at every single stereotype I could possibly think of that day. I laughed even harder when they impersonated a middle aged Salvadorean man. He spoke of his neighborhood and his family, of how many Salvadoreans are distrustful and prejudice of Black people, yet he managed to save grace by finding humor in the fact that their foods are very similar [fried chicken and chicharrones] and that they are also very family oriented. This reminde me of my family. My cousin Marina, the oldest of my generation married a Black man, and you could say that this represented an initial culture clash for their families, but love and time have given way to acceptance in our family. And now many of my cousins have gorgeous bilingual and bicultural children.

I also loved the first character Mohammed who discussed the anti-Arab prejudice that has occurred post-9/11. He talked about his fear, yet he spoke with tenderness about his love for America and his desire to feel American and to belong. Culture Clash also made a special effort to include difficult topics like Hurrican Katrina displacement by questioning the term refugee, this particular skit was especially well recieved by the Houston audience who welcomed hurricane victims with open arms during those difficult times and witnessed their pain and suffering.

Overall, I was very impressed by their work. Twenty years of being on the road, play after play, and defying the status quo. Their work is critical, contemporary and relevant to anyone who wants to understand American culture and all of its complexities.

Basquiat @ the MFAH in Houston Wednesday, Feb 8 2006 

The Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit at the MFAH was a powerful visual display. Large make-shift canvases, furniture, doors and even graffitti objects showed the variety of production he engaged in. Basquiat's incredible ability to produce large-scale works with a sense of urgency never ceases to amaze me. I was overwhelmed by the obsessive process in his work, the constant, almost compulsive act of recurring to the use of symbols.

Basquiat's family background is also very interesting. His mother was from Puerto Rico and his father from Haiti. They were a middle class family from Brooklyn. Basquiat usually identifies very strongly with the plight of African Americans, although, I have never heard him mention his Latin American background. Regardless of his chosen identity, he is presented at the MFAH as a contemporary American artist. However, his complex identity comes through visually and in his use of words on canvas. The piece that stands out to me is Arroz con Pollo in which he explores Black and Latino identity.